Despite a solid showing in the first round at the 2006 Big West Golf Championships, held last Monday and Tuesday at Tijeras Creek Golf Club in Rancho Santa Margarita, the UCSB men’s golf team fell in the second round of play and finished in sixth place.

“We really didn’t have that good of a season altogether – we didn’t necessarily expect to win Big West,” junior Joe Ryon said. “Only two guys had ever played that course before and Conference is our only chance all year to move on to Regionals and possibly Nationals and it was a lot of pressure; we didn’t really expect to win.”

The Gauchos began the tournament’s first round on Monday morning, staying close behind first place Cal Poly. Santa Barbara, however, struggled in the final holes of the first round and finished in the middle of the pack with a 296.

The difficulties carried over into Monday’s second round and UCSB came out shooting 304, only one stroke less than last place finisher UC Riverside. The Gauchos finished in fourth place in Tuesday’s third round with a 293 but it was too little too late and they finished in sixth place with a collective 891.

“It was disappointing … the second half of the season, we had built up some pretty good momentum and did well against the other Big West teams so if we played well we could have won but we didn’t. Joe and Ryan Keefe played well,” UCSB Head Coach Steve Lass said. “It’s not any one thing … for the guys themselves, there are different reasons why each guy could have played well but I don’t think there’s any one reason you could put your finger. It sometimes just happens in golf.”

Ryon placed highest of the UCSB golfers, tying for fifth place overall with a one over par 217. Close behind Ryon, with a final score of 220, was sophomore Keefe, who took second place for UCSB and tied for 11thplace overall.

Marty Melcher finished the tournament with a 14 over par, shooting 230. Tying for 30th place were senior Greg Wells and freshman Tony Verna, both shooting a 15 over par 231. Wells finished out his UCSB career with a team round-low 70 in the third round on Tuesday.

Cal Poly took first place in the tournament with an 11 under par 853, paced by the Big West Conference Player of the Year senior Travis Bertoni, who shot 207, nine under par.

The Big West All-Conference Teams were announced at the tournament and Ryon took first team honors and Verna’s freshman campaign was good enough for a second team nod.

“It’s bittersweet getting first team, I expected myself to be able to do that but the team is what I care about. We didn’t do what we wanted to do as a team. It’s bittersweet but not all that sweet, not that big of a thing,” Ryon said. “Tony had a real impressive year as a freshman. We kind of expected it because he had such a great summer playing golf tournaments but to place in league tourneys and do so well is great.”

Santa Barbara, losing only one senior, Wells, to graduation this year, will have solid core of young returners.

“Greg’s presence is definitely going to be missed, more or less our captain, everyone looked up to him for advice, how to shoot shots, how to act in certain situations,” Ryon said. “Ryan Keefe played really well, especially in the last two tournaments. It’s a bright future for us, we’re looking to do better – we have a lot of young guys with a lot of potential.”