Despite winning a conference championship this year, the UCSB golf team knew the postseason would be much more difficult. Taking part in the very competitive NCAA Stanford Regional, Santa Barbara certainly had its fair share of struggles, finishing the competition in 11th place of the 13 teams that competed.
Even though the low ranking meant an end to their season, the Gauchos certainly had a very successful 2016-17 season during which they won their first Big West title since 1998 and four other regular-season tournament championships. The five total titles are the most won in a single season in program history.
UCSB finished Wednesday carding 8-over par 288, its best round at the Stanford Regional. As a whole, the team finished with a total 34-over par 874, finishing in front of Sacramento State’s 48-over par 888 and South Dakota State’s 59-over par 899.
Only four teams finished the tournament carding under par, with the winner of the Regional going to the host, Stanford, who tied for first with Baylor as they both carded 17-under 823. They will be advancing to the NCAA championship, along with third-place Pepperdine, fourth-place Oklahoma and fifth-place North Carolina, in hopes of attaining a national title.
Individually, freshman Brett Bennett and junior Zach Smith each shot a 1-over par 71 in the final round to lead UCSB, while sophomore Nick Swanson finished with a 2-over par 72.
Swanson and Bennett both were the highest-ranking Gauchos in the tournament, finishing 5-over 215 to tie for 33rd place out of the 75 competing athletes. Smith registered a 9-over par 219 to finish tied for 54th place. Junior Brandon Bauman finished tied for 65th with a 16-over par performance while junior Willy Moffly finished tied for 68th at 17-over par.
The highest finish for an athlete from the Big West was UC Irvine’s David Kim, who finished the tournament tied for 20th place at 2-over par 212. Big West individual champion junior Felix Mory from Cal State Northridge also participated in the regional, finishing tied for 23rd after carding 3-over par 213.
The winner of the Stanford Regional went to Oklahoma’s sophomore Brad Dalke, who carded a 12-under par 198 to take home first-place honors. Baylor’s freshman Cooper Dossey finished the competition at second place with a 9-under par performance, while Stanford’s senior Maverick McNealy shot at 8-under par to round out the top three.
Despite the 11th-place finish, the Gauchos capped off one of the best seasons in UCSB history with all the tournament titles and individual accolades. However, the best part is probably the fact that they will return most of this starting team, and with young guys like Swanson and Bennett performing at a high level, the sky is the ceiling for next year’s team.
A version of this story appeared on p. 6 of the May 18, 2017, edition of the Daily Nexus.