USC’s golf teams will face tough tests this weekend

The No. 1-ranked USC women’s golf team will attempt to defend its Pac-12 tournament title this weekend at the Trysting Tree G.C. in Corvallis, Ore. The event, hosted by Oregon State, will feature five other top-10 teams — No. 2 UCLA, No. 4 Arizona State, No. 7 Stanford, No. 9 Arizona and No. 10 Washington.

Final swings · Senior Jeffrey Kang will participate in his last Pac-12 Championship this weekend. Kang finished 60th at last year’s event. - Courtesy of USC Sports Information

Final swings · Senior Jeffrey Kang will participate in his last Pac-12 Championship this weekend. Kang finished 60th at last year’s event. – Courtesy of USC Sports Information

It has been a banner year for the Women of Troy, who had never started a golf season by winning more than one event. This year, however, they crushed that record by claiming championships in their first five events.

Though the Women of Troy have used a variety of lineups in its regular season events this year, head coach Andrea Gaston has decided that this weekend will feature a group of golfers she has utilized four times already this season. Gaston has chosen senior Sophia Popov, junior Doris Chen, sophomores Annie Park and Kyung Kim, and freshman Karen Chung.

The women’s team will tee off on Friday at 9:40 a.m. with 7th-seed Oregon. USC has now won 11 of its past 13 tournaments, and 15 of 19 going all the way back to the fall of 2012. This spring, the veteran group of players includes all five members from last year’s team that won the NCAA title by a record 21 strokes.

The No. 21-ranked men’s golf team will also be busy this weekend, traveling to The Gallery G.C. in Marana, Ariz., for its own Pac-12 Championship.

The men’s team will look to bounce back from their performance at the Western Intercollegiate Golf Tournament last weekend. The Trojans finished sixth, behind four teams that will be competing against them this weekend in Tucson, Ariz. Among them are No. 3 Cal, No. 6 Stanford and No. 17 Washington. Head coach Chris Zambri noted that his team would need to improve on their previous performance, and play as a collective unit, in order to play at their potential.

“They all have areas of their game that they focus on in order to play well. As coaches, we may try to shine a light on something that needs improvement,” Zambri said. “Rare is the golfer without an area in need of improvement. They have all been working tremendously hard and smart in the days and weeks leading up to this stretch run.”

Freshman Rico Hoey, a newly selected U.S. Palmer Cup Team participant, will look to lead his team this weekend. Hoey tied for third place at the team’s last event, one of his seven top-seven finishes so far this season. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. native will represent the U.S. in England at the Palmer Cup this summer. Four other Trojans have played in the event in program history, the last being Tim Sluiter in 2008 and 2009.

Besides the tough finish at the Western Intercollegiate, the Trojans enter this weekend after finishing top two in three out of their four previous events. Starting with 36 holes this Friday, and concluding with 18 holes each on Saturday and Sunday, the Trojans will start the Pac-12 championships teeing off at 6:30 a.m. along with California and Colorado.

Zambri and women’s head coach Andrea Gaston are no strangers to this type of golf competition. Gaston recently helped the Women of Troy win the NCAA championship in 2013, and Zambri’s résumé includes a plethora of individual and team champions that he has produced while coaching at USC. The eighth-year coach is confident in his team’s chances over the weekend.

“We are a good enough team to win the Pac-12,” Zambri said. “In order to do so, though, each of our six players will need to play well. We have two seniors who are great Trojans that will be graduating in May — Ramsey Sahyoun and Jeffrey Kang. It would be great to send them off with a Pac-12 title.”

If one thing is certain, both the women’s and men’s teams contain all the tools needed to succeed this weekend at the Pac-12 championships. Both groups of golfers have consistently shown that they can compete soundly with the toughest competition, and this weekend will only provide these teams with a stage to showcase the talent that they have polished all season long.

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