‘Disappointing’ is the word used most often by members of the No. 10 USC men’s golf team to describe their early play.
That might seem like a misnomer, given the team’s lofty ranking and the formidable schedule they have had to navigate thus far, but USC coach Chris Zambri has built a program in which winning tournaments is the expectation.
“We need to start finishing higher in fields,” Zambri said. “Finishing in the middle of a field is not what we ever want to do. I’m looking forward to [the next tournament], and I hope these guys start playing the way I know they can.”
The Trojans have their next opportunity to please their coach this weekend at the Prestige Tournament in La Quinta, Calif. In a familiar refrain for the Trojans, the field will once again be populated by a number of top programs, including No. 5 Washington, No. 6 Stanford and No. 20 Texas Christian University.
“Coach’s expectations are obviously really high because every year he’s had a very competitive team that’s been in the top three or four in the country,” freshman Martin Trainer said. “He wants to win every tournament.”
Trainer has been a bright spot for USC this season. With a pair of top-20 finishes under his belt, the freshman has quickly adapted to the collegiate game. Now Zambri is waiting for the rest of the team to step up.
“The best thing that has happened so far is Martin has shown he can play high-level college golf,” Zambri said. “I know we have other guys who have done that or who I’m very confident will do that. If we can add another guy to the mix like we have with Martin, that’s a great thing.”
Chief among those players is junior Matthew Giles, who struggled enormously in his last tournament. The returning All-American had a strong qualifying round this week leading up to the tournament, giving his coach some reassurance.
“I’m standing on the 18th tee at Trump right now and Matthew is 6-under par at a really good golf course,” Zambri said on Wednesday. “We need a guy like Matthew to just do his thing. We need him playing like he can play.”
If Giles cannot carry the team, then the burden will likely fall on Trainer, who, in typical fashion for this team, is embarrased with his play thus far.
“Even though I have some pretty decent finishes, I feel like my game is at a much higher level than what my scores [have] shown,” he said.
Trainer said the team needs more consistent play if they want to reach their potential.
“Consistency is the most important thing,” he said. “Every single guy can go out there and shoot a good round, but it’s a team event and we need four good scores out of five. We haven’t had four good ones at the same time yet.”
The Trojans might not have played up to their capabilities yet this season but that does not mean morale is low. In fact, Zambri said the team is not even down about their mediocre results so far.
“We’d be really down if we thought we played well and finished seventh or eighth, but I don’t think we’ve played worth a darn yet,” he said.
Opening round play at the Prestige starts Sunday. The tournament will conclude Tuesday morning.