The UCSB men’s golf team was handed another disappointing finish this week, as tough conditions and injuries contributed to a 70-over-par 910, good enough for 10th place in the Western Collegiate, which was held at Pasatiempo Country Club in Santa Cruz. Despite finishing 45 shots back of tournament champion University of Oregon, Head Coach Steve Lass still found the bright spots in his team’s finish.
“While I really didn’t think we played really well, I thought we were going to end up much lower,” Lass said. “There were a lot of high scores, so all in all I was pretty pleased with our finish.”
UCSB and the rest of the field, consisting of 18 teams, had to contend with tough pin placements requiring extreme accuracy. Santa Barbara was further hindered by the loss of its #2 player, junior Matt Grush, to injury.
Despite the difficult match conditions, sophomore Tyler Weir continued to be a bright spot for the Gauchos, finishing in 20th place with a 13-over 223 in three rounds. In two of those rounds, Weir’s scores were good enough to be the lowest of the day for UCSB.
Junior Brian Hollenbeck, who has been the team’s key player for the last two years, has been struggling this season, including a 25-over 235 in Santa Cruz. Hollenbeck was less than satisfied with his performance.
“I played pretty terribly, to be honest,” Hollenbeck said. “I’ve been struggling all year, so it was disappointing. I’ve just been hitting the ball poorly, and when you don’t have control over your ball, especially on that course, you wind up shooting high scores.”
Hollenbeck’s teammate, sophomore Andrew Gunson, was not too worried about his captain’s struggles.
“I know Brian has been struggling, but he will be back playing well soon,” Gunson said. “I think [consistency] is just about not letting anything get out of control, putting in some practice hours and just playing hard.”
Gunson, Hollenbeck and the rest of the UCSB team will have to do just that, as they have just one more tournament between now and the Big West Championship in San Louis Obispo on April 20. For the team to do well there, Coach Lass believes that Hollenbeck’s return will be very important.
“Brian has been our go to guy for years,” Lass said. “In golf, you’ll get into a little slump and it’s hard to get yourself out of it. It’s tough not having those same scores coming from our number one guy now. But with the other guys starting to step up and play better, we’re back to being a pretty good team. We’re close to playing well.”
For the Big West tournament, Hollenbeck is trying to keep the focus on individual performance, rather than putting emphasis on expectations.
“We expect ourselves to perform well, but we don’t go into any tournament expecting to win. That could lead to not focusing on what we have to do to reach that goal,” Hollenbeck said. “We focus on each individual doing what they have to do to play the best they can play, and hopefully, in the end we will have succeeded.”
Santa Barbara will try to reach that success when they head to Scottsdale, Arizona this Monday before the Big West Championships at San Louis Obispo Country Club, to be played later this month.