The UCSB golf team’s hopes to book a trip to the regional tournament came unraveled Monday at the Big West Championships, following a promising first-round 289 with a dismal team mark of 308. The score dropped Santa Barbara from second to seventh place out of seven teams, a position they could not climb out of.

UC Irvine took the coveted top prize, shooting consistently throughout the three rounds. The Anteaters opened up tournament play with a 272 before posting back-to-back rounds of 290 to close out the tournament.

While Irvine held a 22-shot lead over second place heading into the Tuesday’s final round, Irvine surprisingly did not cruise to victory. Cal Poly, who leap-frogged second-place Pacific in the standings, shot an extraordinary 269 to make up 21 shots of their 24 shot deficit between them and the eventual victors in the tournament’s final round. But even the Mustang’s day two heroics could not topple the invaluable consistency of the Anteater brigade.

Freshman Brian Hollenbeck placed the highest of all Gauchos, as he chalked a 1-under par 215 to place eighth among individuals. The most recent addition to the Santa Barbara starting five, freshman Matt Grush, had another strong showing with a 5-over par 221 that left him in 17th place. For Grush, that makes three tournaments in a row where he’s finished first or second on the Gaucho roster. The choice to bump him up less than a month ago was certainly a lucrative one.

Joe Ryon, Santa Barbara’s lone senior on the squad, shot a 9-over par 225, which put him in 25th place at the end of three rounds, while sophomores Tony Verna and Marty Melcher finished in 29th and 34th place respectively, with three-round scores of 227 and 233.

The disappointing loss marks the conclusion of the 2006-07 season for UCSB, who showed a great deal of potential during the fall quarter. While they didn’t reach their goal of representing the conference in regionals, they performed admirably as the school’s ambassadors in a sport defined by stiff pressure.

Even in the springtime, when players and coaches alike cited a departure from the promise they saw in the autumn, they never finished in the lower half of any tournament until yesterday. All things considered, that’s not a terrible showing.

As for senior Joe Ryon, he calls it quits after two seasons of leading the Gauchos on the course. Among his accolades is a first-team All-Big West selection from last year.