UC Riverside’s men’s golf team finished 13th out of 15 schools competing in the Del Walker Intercollegiate Tournament at the par-70 Virginia Country Club in Long Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 28. The Highlanders finished the tournament with a final team score of 900, 60 shots over par. Senior Sam Gillis entered the final 18 tied for second place after his second round, which was suspended due to darkness. Gillis finished his second round with five birdies and just one bogey to finish with a score of 66, 4-under-par. In the third round he shot a 78, leaving him in 12th place.
Despite the fact that the team finished tied for second to last, Head Coach Rick Todd liked the way his team competed. “I thought they competed well, I saw a lot of good things,” said Todd following the showing. Todd believes that if the team fixes a few mental errors they can be competitive in the upcoming Sacramento State Invitational. “The mental mistakes they make each day are starting to kill them,” Todd said. “Hopefully they can clean all those up, and we can play good this week in Sacramento.” Golf is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one, so making multiple mental errors shows in a golfer’s game, and it was evident on the scorecard.
Todd believes the only way to fix those errors is for the players to really think about the shot before hitting it. He explained, “A lot of it is pre-routine, before they hit the shot. Just make sure where they’re trying to hit it or where they want to hit it are good spots on the green or good areas on the fairway instead of just hitting it and hoping.”
Gillis’ performance helped the Highlanders stay competitive, but that was not evident from looking at where UCR finished. He has no doubt helped his team of late, posting the lowest score on the team in three of the last four tournaments. Despite Gillis’ best efforts, the Highlanders are going to need someone else to help carry the team. Gillis was in the top two through the second round of the tournament, but his performance alone couldn’t get the Highlanders to a top-10 finish. Someone who they could look toward to help carry the load is UCR’s recently named Big West Scholar-Athlete of the Year, sophomore Michael Wong.
Todd pointed to Wong’s work ethic as the reason he won the award. “He works hard on the golf course and off the golf course,” affirmed Todd. “When you have kids like that, it’s contagious to the other guys. Everybody starts working a little harder and harder so thats a good problem to have.”
Wong, despite his work ethic, had a tough time at the tournament, failing to card even one birdie and finishing with the highest score on the team. Though, Todd maintains that Wong’s contributions go beyond the course, with his effort during practices positively impacting the team culture.
Men’s golf next plays at the the Sacramento State Invitational in Sacramento from Monday, March 6 through Tuesday, March 7.