Coming off its first tournament of the season, the No. 9 USC men’s golf team has had little time to work out the kinks before they head north for the PING/Golfweek Invitational in Bremerton, Wash.
NCAA regulations and the elements conspired against the Trojans’ practice schedule this week. The team took a mandatory day off Monday before a heavy fog Wednesday morning blanketed the Trump National Golf Club and kept the team off the course.
With only two days of practice between tournaments, one might expect the team to be unprepared this weekend, but coach Chris Zambri said several aspects of the Gold Mountain Golf Course favor his team.
“I think it plays to our strengths in that it’s a ball striker’s course,” Zambri said. “It’s not a real old course, but it’s a traditional course with tree lines.”
Gold Mountain also mirrors the course USC played at last week, which should help the Trojans.
“It’s somewhat like where we just played,” he said. “It probably won’t play as tough, but it’s the same style of golf course.”
The course may not be as challenging as the one USC played last week but the competition will be just as stout. No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 10 Washington headline the opposition. The Cowboys placed second last week at the Olympia Fields Invitational, 11 strokes ahead of the Trojans.
Defending NCAA champion Texas A&M, No. 21 North Carolina State — who is returning national player of the year Matt Hill — and No. 24 UNLV will also test the Trojans.
USC will bring the same lineup to Washington that they used last week. Freshman Sam Smith beat out redshirt junior Bo DeHuff in a qualifying round this week at practice, meaning the Trojans will once again call upon three freshmen this week.
Junior Matthew Giles, sophomore Steve Lim and freshmen Martin Trainer and T.J. Vogel round out the group.
USC spent what little practice time they had this week hitting irons and figuring out how far they were going.
“Guys worked on making sure they knew their yardages with their irons, especially the newer players,” Zambri said. “They don’t get a lot of opportunities to do that before they come here.”
If the Trojans can figure out their yardages they have a chance to do well at a course that has been good to them in the past. USC won their NCAA Regional at the course two years ago.
“We have a totally different makeup now so that’s not necessarily relevant, but as a program we have had success there,” Zambri said.
Most of that regional-winning team might be gone, but one member remains who should play a key role this weekend. Giles helped USC to a victory then as a freshman and will be counted on to do the same this year.