The Big West Championship tournament was the hardest yet for the UCSB men’s golf team, which finished eighth out of eight teams in what proved to be a disappointing spring follow-up to the team’s fall season. UCSB finished at 33 over par, a gaping distance from tournament winners UC Davis, which came into the clubhouse at 3 under. Obviously, Head Coach Steve Lass was less than satisfied with the outing.
“It was very disappointing,” Lass said. “We entered the final round in sixth but only two strokes ahead of eighth, so we needed to play well and we just played a mediocre round of golf, and the other teams played better than that.”
For a team that had a promising young team last year, the Big West tournament was another reminder that the Gauchos are not playing up to standards. Junior Brian Hollenbeck, who started the season as the team’s number-one player, knows that fact as well as anyone.
“I’m not really satisfied,” Hollenbeck said. “[The Big West tournament] was pretty much the same as the rest of the spring season for me. I still struggled, and it’s just one of those things. This season’s been really hard for me.”
As a senior next year, Hollenbeck’s window for becoming an elite college player is slowly closing. But that does not mean he is going to give up now.
“For me, it’s kind of now or never,” Hollenbeck said. “Next season is my last year here, and we either have to play really well in the regular season next year or we’ve got to win conference [to reach the postseason]. I’ll take a week or so off and not really think about golf for a while and get my mind fresh, and then from there I can decide what I want to do. But I’ll end up practicing a lot this summer and trying to get better, like always.”
One bright spot for the team this year has been sophomore Tyler Weir’s continuation of a wonderful freshman season. Weir finished 12th out of 40 players on Tuesday, and has moved all the way up to the team’s number one slot.
“I’ve just learned to respect par more,” Weir said. “I’m trying not to get worked up when I hit a bad shot. I’ve just learned to stay calm and hit good, quality shots and take birdies when they come.”
Besides the further continuation of Weir’s game and a return to from Hollenbeck, Lass knows the team has some changes to make. According to Lass, that means hard work in store for the offseason.
“In the second half of the year, we had some problems with injuries and illness, but really, the bottom line is that we could have overcome that,” Lass said. “It was just poor play, and as a coach, I’ve got to figure out what went wrong so it doesn’t happen again. I think part of it was that I haven’t forced my players to make some dramatic changes that they need to make.”
Lass admits those changes would not be easy for the coach or the players, but the potentially hurt egos remain a necessary risk.
“They would be difficult changes, and I know the players would be reluctant to make them. But for this particular team to perform at a higher level, they would need to make those changes. To make them understand, I’d have to let them know that they have true weaknesses in their game.”
However, with no seniors in their top five, the Gauchos will have a wealth of experience on their side when they hope to come back strong next year. Coupled with a new recruiting class to push the top players even higher, the outlook on Gaucho golf seems as bright as ever.