The USC men’s golf team has never won a national championship. According to fifth year coach Chris Zambri, it is time for that to change.
“Our goal this year is to win the [NCAA] Tournament,” Zambri said. “We want to be the best.”
Strong words from Zambri, but not unrealistic. Last year the Trojans rode a wave of youth to a 15th place finish at the NCAA Tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn. It was their fourth straight appearance under Zambri. Starting three freshmen in their five man rotation, the Trojans consistently faced more experienced, veteran teams as they fought to navigate the second most difficult schedule in the nation.
“We try to play in the toughest events,” Zambri said. “I sometimes wonder if we should, but there’s a lot to be said for playing the toughest courses and best players.”
That experience will hopefully go a long way toward eliminating the inconsistency that plagued the Trojans last year as they struggled to play well throughout the course of the season.
Indeed, last year they never won a tournament, although they did succeed in racking up a string of top-10 finishes against loaded fields, their best finish a second place showing at the NCAA West Regional. That is something Zambri wants to rectify.
“We want to start off quickly and win tournaments. I think we can do that,” Zambri said. “We have a very good team, but we have to prove it.”
All-American T.J. Vogel is now in his second year with the team, as are standouts Martin Trainer and Sam Smith. They will be joined by junior Steve Lim, who was one of the few points of consistency last year for the Trojans, as he recorded four top-20 finishes in nine outings.
“I expect Steve to be a number one player for us,” Zambri said. “I’m really proud of his summer, and I think he could be an All-American.”
Lim and company will be joined by a pair of true freshman standouts in Jeffrey Kang and Ramsey Sahyoun, two of the top rated high school golfers in the nation.
Kang, who hails from Fullerton, Calif., received a spot on the 2009 Rolex All-American team and was the No.1-ranked high school golfer in the country last year, according to Golfweek magazine. Sahyoun, from Van Nuys, Calif., won the 2009 36-hole U.S. Junior Amateur Championship qualifying tournament.
Zambri said he expects each to step in and compete for playing time, as the team must replace a former two-time All-American in Matt Giles, who left the team after the end of his junior season to play professionally.
The Trojans look to have enough firepower to battle through a loaded Pac-10 conference in 2010, which features five of the top 10 teams included in the NCAA Men’s Golf Poll. Stanford and defending Pac-10 champions Washington pace the conference at number two and three, respectively, while USC begins the year just outside the top 10 at No. 11.
Thus, in order to achieve their goals, the Trojans will have to do the one thing they did not last year: win. And with a fresh infusion of youth in Kang and Sahyoun and the continued development of last year’s freshman class, this might not be out of reach.