The USC men’s golf team returns all of its players from last year, looking to make another trip to the NCAA championships — and possibly further — as it opens its 2011 season today at the Kikkor Golf Husky Invitational in Washington.
USC heads into the competition ranked No. 11 in the Golf World/Nike Golf Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
The Trojans have advanced to the NCAA championships final five years in a row under USC coach Chris Zambri. Despite starting off slow the last couple years, junior Martin Trainer knows the offseason preparation should enable the team to be focused in its first tournament.
“We’ve been working hard on the course the last few weeks trying to get ready for this tournament,” Trainer said. “We’ve just been working on all aspects of our game and doing what we need to do to get ready.”
Trainer, the 2011 Pac-10 championships individual champion and an All-Pac-10 first teamer, has aimed to correct weaknesses in the offseason to help improve his game.
“I’ve been working on my short game and I’ve really made an effort to take a step in the right direction,” he said. “Putting, chipping [and] my bunker game was a weakness, so I’m trying to convert that into a strength.”
Along with Trainer, the Trojans return senior Steve Lim — a 2011 All-Pac-10 second teamer for the second consecutive year — junior Sam Smith and sophomore Jeffrey Kang, also an All-Pac-10 second- team selection.
Smith was a 2011 All-Pac-10 honorable mention as well, boasting three top-10 finishes and five in the top-20 last season.
Joining them are junior Stewart Hagestad and sophomore Ramsey Sahyoun. Adding to an already experienced squad, USC bolsters its roster with freshmen Daniel Lee and top recruit Anthony Paolucci.
Lee, who starred at West Ranch high school, finished 18-under while winning the 2009 Thunderbird Junior Invitational. He also tied for fifth at the 2010 Junior PGA Championship.
Paolucci, for two consecutive years (junior and senior), was the No. 1 player in the country while prepping at La Jolla Country Day high school and was the 2010 Rolex Junior Player of the Year. Paolucci also earned a sponsor’s exemption into the 2011 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a PGA Tour event, and finished the event in the top-30.
“He made the cut and beat Tiger Woods [at Torrey Pines],” Trainer said. “That just shows you how good he is. He’s been struggling a little bit, but I expect him to turn it around and be a huge contributor to this team.”
Trainer has set goals for the upcoming season and hopes to expand on last year’s success.
“I want to be a first-team All-American, but more importantly, I want to win a national championship,” he said. “That’s what we preach at USC and the whole point of being here is to win that title.”
The Trojans will tee off at the Olympic Golf Course at Gold Mountain G.C. in Bremerton, Wash.