Men’s Golf: Big West Champs
The Anteater men’s golf claimed their sixth Big West Conference title since 2001 last Tuesday at Mission Viejo Country Club, and it was not even close. As Big West champs, UC Irvine earns an automatic NCAA Tournament berth.
“Coming into the tournament, we were 22-2 against conference teams. We were the No. 1 seed, so I guess we were supposed to win,” Head Coach Paul Smolinski said. “But you still have to go and get it done, so there’s always a bit of an apprehension. But we did it this year, and we’re thrilled about that.”
The Anteater squad of senior John Chin, juniors Shaun O’Meara, Max Greil and Bryan Harris, and freshman Jerry He recorded a 54-hole total of 873, a whopping 17 shots ahead of runner-up Pacific (890).
Chin, who has been ranked No. 1 nationally in the Golfstat Cup rankings since April 27, continued his superstar play by earning medalist honors at the tournament.
Chin shot a 1-under 71 in Tuesday’s final round to finish with a 54-hole total of 7-under 209. Runner-ups T.J. Bordeaux of Pacific and Cal Poly’s Pace Johnson tied for second with a total of 218.
“[Chin] had a really great week, and he’s been doing that since last October,” Smolinski said. “Not really surprised that he played as well as he did, but for him to beat second place by nine strokes is pretty dominant.”
O’Meara also had a breakout tournament, recording a 219 which was good for second on the team and fourth place in the tournament.
“[O’Meara] had the best tournament that he had all year, and the best tournament he’s had in college golf,” Smolinski said. “That helped [the team] a lot.”
Indeed, Smolinski made it a point to praise all the guys on the team. The Rome, Italy native Greil is someone who has stepped up for the Anteaters this year.
“The other guys have been consistent all year,” Smolinski said. “Max Greil has had a terrific year. He’s been our solid number two guy behind John. This year, he’s been averaging six whole strokes better than last year.”
Smolinski, who has been at UCI for 12 years, continues his brilliant run of success with Anteater men’s golf. This year will be the ninth post-season appearance in ten years for Irvine.
“We know it’s always tough to advance out of the [NCAA] regional … we’ve only done it twice since 2001, even though we’ve advanced eight times,” Smolinski said.
The number of regional sites for men’s golf was recently increased from three to six, with only five teams advancing from each regional (half the previous amount).
However, with more momentum now than at any point during the season, the leadership of Chin and the emergence of O’Meara do not count the Anteaters out.
“We have to play really well to do it, there’s no faking it there,” Smolinski said. “If this team goes and plays well, they have a shot to advance. We can’t have anyone take the week off and expect to make it.”
|Big West Men’s Champion|
|LB State||+ 31||895|
|UC Davis||+ 46||910|
|Cal Poly||+ 61||925|