Senior Joe Ryon and UCSB shared a similar fate Tuesday, finishing second by one stroke in both the individual and team competitions to future conference rivals UC Davis and Aggie superstar Matt Marshall.
But it’s hard to look back at the Gauchos 1-over-par performance down in Scottsdale, Ariz., with negative sentiment considering the level of improvement they showcased just two weeks before the conference championship.
“A win might have gotten us into Regionals, but we don’t really know; it all depends on the rankings,” Ryon said. “It was kind of disappointing because of what happened at the end, but at the same time [the only reason we were in that position] was because we were playing well.”
After leading the individual standings for two rounds with a 7-under-par performance, the nail biting conclusion left Ryon with a 4-under-par 206 and locked him in a three-way tie for second place.
Davis’ Matt Marshall birdied the final hole to give Davis, and himself, the 1-stroke victory.
“I’ll tell you exactly what happened; I was leading after the first two rounds and the guy I played with was in second, so I knew all day what was happening,” Ryon said. “The guy ahead of me started making some birdies on the back nine, so I knew I was one shot down going into the last hole and I missed [the shot] to tie [for the individual competition].”
Ryon’s disappointment was only intensified when he discovered the full story.
“I didn’t know at the time [that shot] was to tie the team competition as well,” Ryon said. “That was disappointing because I knew I had the lead and I knew a win would have been a real, real positive thing.”
The silver lining for Ryon and UCSB can be found in the invaluable addition of true freshman Matt Grush to the top-five. After placing above all other Gauchos in Santa Barbara’s own tournament last week, he continued to roll, finishing tied for 11th place with an even par 210.
“Matt is just playing real well; he played last week in the tournament we hosted and he shot 10-under-par; that was real exciting for us because we hadn’t really seen that out of him before,” Ryon said. “It has been really exciting for me because I’m a senior, and a couple of the younger guys are stepping up. Matt Grush and Brian Hollenbeck are both true freshmen, and they are really stepping up this year and really giving us a chance of making the postseason.”
Hollenbeck finished another relatively successful tournament with a 5-over 215 which was good enough for 31st place in the individual standings. Marty Melcher shot an 8-over-par 218, while Tony Verna closed out the Gaucho top-five with a 10-over 220.
The Gauchos must now pin their hopes for the postseason on the conference tournament April 23 and 24 in Rancho Santa Margarita. A win would put them in the regional tournament.
“Our goal for the whole year has been to make Regionals,” Ryon said. “We played really well in the beginning of the year and then in the last month or so we really haven’t played up to our potential; so we knew coming in that this tournament was going to be really important for us so we can boost our rankings. From the Big West, usually only one or two [teams make Regionals].”
Being a part of District 8, which is comprised of many of the top squads from the Western United States does not help the Gauchos’ bid to make the postseason. To make Regionals based on rankings, the squad would have to finish in the top 12 teams in a district that includes UCLA, USC, Arizona State University and Stanford.
“We’re always battling for that twelfth spot because there are so many good teams that are ahead of us,” Ryon said. “Playing well throughout the year will boost your ranking [and help you get into the regional tournament], rather than having to win conference, which is stressful. [But] we’ll have to win next week.”
As for the ongoing rivalry with Davis, the squads will have to wait until next year for another chance to do battle in collegiate competition.
“UC Davis is our big rival, and they’re coming into our conference next year so its kind of disappointing to lose to them, and for me personally, too. As a senior I want to go out with a bang and that was one of my last chances to win a tournament.”