Beginning their first-ever season in Division I, UC San Diego’s men’s golf team opened their 2020-21 season on the Coto de Caza golf course for the Orange County Collegiate Classic, hosted by UC Irvine and California State University, Fullerton, on Feb. 8 and 9. In their first tournament in almost a year, the Tritons finished last out of seven teams in a truncated field.
This year’s Orange County Collegiate Classic featured a much smaller group of teams than the 2020 tournament, which saw the Tritons finish 10th out of 17 teams at Coto de Caza. Meanwhile, UCSD had not played a tournament since the Las Vegas Desert Classic on March 3, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the rust, the Tritons also made a long-awaited debut as a Division I team, and they did so with a young squad: the lineup last week included four freshmen making their collegiate debuts – Alex Hanz, Akira Isayama, Davis Lee, and Jerry Wu – as well as junior Jared Gross. Senior Ryan Vaughan was also at the tournament playing as an individual and not included in the team scoring.
All three rounds of the tournament were played on the same Coto de Caza South Course, which has a par of 72. After the first day of competition, which featured just the first round, Isayama led the Tritons with a 3-over-par 75, which landed him in a tie for 21st behind the first-round leader, Soren Lind of the University of San Francisco. The rest of UCSD’s golfers were not far behind Isayama, with Wu scoring a 76, Hanz at 77, Gross at 78, Lee at 80, and Vaughan with 86. After this first round, the Tritons were in 6th place with a team total of 306, 19 strokes behind team leader USF but 7 strokes ahead of last-place California Baptist University.
Unfortunately for the Tritons, this round would be their best out of three. After the final two rounds, played the next day on Feb. 9, UCSD would finish in last place, 12 strokes behind California Baptist and 74 strokes behind tournament winner USF; the Tritons scored a 318 in the second round and a 314 in the third to finish with a score of 938. Wu scored two 77’s to finish best among the Tritons, with a final score of 230 and in a tie for 26th. Isayama was not far behind with a 231, after scoring an 82 and 74 in his final two rounds. Hanz finished in a tie for 39th with 24, Lee was right behind him in 41st with a 242, and Gross and Vaughan finished in 43rd and 45th with scores of 246 and 250, respectively.
Individually, Gross tied for 9th among all 47 golfers with 10 birdies, with Wu tying for 17th with 9. Meanwhile, Hanz tied for 11th with 33 pars, and Isayama tied for 17th with 31. Isayama also had the best round by a Triton in the tournament with a third-round 74.
Overall, the tournament was won for the second year in a row by USF, who took first place with a three-round score of 864, 12 strokes ahead of CSU Fullerton in second. USF’s Alex Chin and Soren Lind finished as the top two golfers with scores of 213 (-3) and 214 (-2), respectively.
With the Orange County tournament, UCSD men’s golf becomes the third team to return to play in 2020-21 after the COVID-19 pandemic, preceded only by the men’s and women’s basketball teams last December. The Triton golfers will return to action on Feb. 22-23 for The Joust, a tournament hosted by California Baptist at the Goose Creek Golf Club in Riverside.
Photo courtesy of UC San Diego Athletics