Freshman Rico Hoey and the USC men’s golf team are off to a solid start at the Amer Ari Invitational in Waikoloa, Hawaii — their second event of the spring season. At the end of yesterday’s first round, Hoey sat in second place on the individual leaderboard, while the No. 24 Trojans finished in third place as a team.
No. 4 Oklahoma State leads a deep field at the annual tournament, edging out unranked TCU by a single stroke. The Trojans are themselves just one stroke behind the Horned Frogs at 15-under. Also in contention is No. 18 Texas, which is tied with Auburn for fourth place. Three ranked Pac-12 teams, No. 9 Stanford, No. 14 Washington and No. 15 UCLA, each ended the first round well behind the leaders. USC head coach Chris Zambri was content with his team’s effort.
“We are pleased with our start,” Zambri said. “This is a very strong field. If we are going to win, we’ll need help from all.”
Hoey, who struggled in last week’s season-opening Arizona Intercollegiate after an excellent fall campaign, led his team with an impressive 7-under 65. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. native was seeded second for the Trojans, falling from the No. 1 slot after his disappointing performance in Tucson, Ariz. Senior Jeffrey Kang, who won this event in 2011, followed up Hoey with a strong 6-under 66 of his own. That score was good enough for a third-place tie, while junior Anthony Paolucci’s 4-under 68 kept him in the individual hunt as well.
Oregon’s Thomas Lim has a slight lead in the individual race, just a stroke in front of Hoey. All three Trojans figure to battle Lim, TCU’s Chelso Barrett and Oklahoma State’s Ian Davis and Wyndham Clark for the top spot as the tournament continues.
Though he was excited about the individual performances of Hoey, Kang and Paolucci, Zambri knows the rest of his team must improve to win the tournament.
“We had three guys play very well,” he said. “We are looking for some help from the four and five guys in our lineup.”
Senior Ramsey Sahyoun and freshman Danny Ochoa both turned in over-par scores.
Action resumes early tomorrow morning at the Waikoloa Kings’ Course and will continue through the weekend. Results can be followed live at golfstat.com.