The No. 3 USC men’s golf team, playing without the injured Jamie Lovemark and on the brink of having a promising season end prematurely, shot a final round four-under par 284 to grab the last NCAA national championship qualification spot by one shot over New Mexico. The Trojans were led by freshman Steve Lim, whose last day 66 was deemed “hands down, the best round of the year” by coach Chris Zambri.
Lovemark, a two-time All-American, sustained a muscle tear in his rib section two weeks ago during practice and was clearly not his usual self in the first two rounds of the NCAA West Regional at Lake Merced Golf Course, shooting 76 and 83. He withdrew from the tournament before Saturday’s final round, meaning that all four of USC’s other golfers would have their scores count, severely limiting the Trojans’ room for error.
“The safety net [of the fifth player] makes it a lot easier,” sophomore Matt Giles said. “It’s difficult playing with only four guys.”
The Trojans got off to a rough start, with senior Tom Glissmeyer six-over par after his first five holes and no other player under par at the time.
“Even though I was struggling early on, I knew that I needed to grind it out,” Glissmeyer said. “Every stroke could be the difference and it turned out it was, one stroke.”
Glissmeyer settled down and was one-under par on his remaining 12 holes, finishing with a 77. Giles had two birdies in his last five holes to shoot 72, while sophomore Tim Sluiter birdied four of his last seven holes to shoot 69.
Lim, the only non All-American regular starter for USC, was the unexpected source of the low round on Saturday, making six birdies and an eagle over his last 13 holes.
“He’s been a great addition to our team all year,” Zambri said. “The only thing he hadn’t been doing was finishing off good rounds that he had started. On Saturday, our assistant coach [Josh] Brewer walked the course with him the whole time and just kind of talked him through every shot because the decision making can be tough when [you’re under pressure].”
The decision to have Brewer basically caddy for the freshman proved huge down the stretch when Lim shook off a bogey on an easy 16th hole to finish birdie-birdie and help USC qualify for the NCAA finals to be held at Inverness Country Club in Toledo, Ohio.
The focus for the Trojans now turns to fine tuning their games and waiting to see if Lovemark will be healthy enough to play in less than two weeks.
Even without Lovemark, the Trojans believe they have as good of a chance as anyone at taking home the national title.
“Every guy on our team, of the four that are going for sure, has proven that they can play big time golf on a big stage,” Zambri said.
“Everything else was just preparation,” Glissmeyer added. “I don’t really care if we went the whole season without winning if we get this next one. That’s all that matters.”