The USC men’s golf team tied for eighth amid a strong field at its inaugural tournament of the season, the Olympia Fields Invitational in Chicago. The Trojans shot 43-over 883 (295-290-298) for the weekend.
USC coach Chris Zambri wasn’t thrilled with the result but saw things the team could build on.
“I’m disappointed and I know every one of them was too,” Zambri said. “I’m disappointed in our finish, but I saw a lot of good things out there from guys.”
Seven of the top 10 teams in the country took part in the event, including Stanford and tournament victor Arizona State. The No. 5 Sun Devils seized the lead after the second round and held on for the victory, shooting 30-over 870. Stanford finished fourth, six shots behind the pace.
USC was in fifth place at 25-over through the first two rounds but struggled down the stretch, shooting 18-over on Sunday. The Trojans were tied for ninth after the first round of action.
Zambri said he thought the team was a little off throughout the weekend despite playing well at times.
“There’s a huge difference between seeing some good signs and putting up a good round,” he said.
Still, Zambri doesn’t think his team is far from putting up good rounds and being a consistent threat to win tournaments.
“I don’t think there are many teams out there that if we play really well we can’t go out and win the tournament,” he said. “We just need to improve enough so that we don’t have to play perfectly to win. We want to be able to play just okay to win.”
Junior Matthew Giles paced USC with a 6-over 216 (74-67-75). He shot toward the top of the leaderboard Saturday after posting a 3-under 67 but faltered late and finished 10th. Giles entered the final day of play in fifth place.
His second round 67 was the best individual round of the tournament.
“His game looks pretty good,” Zambri said. “He was real rusty from having a wrist injury, so he needs to just knock off the rust and chip and putt a little better.”
Zambri was also pleased with how his trio of freshmen performed in their college debuts. Martin Trainer tied for 19th at 10-over 220 (73-72-75). T.J. Vogel tied for 33rd at 13-over 223 (74-74-75) and Sam Smith tied for 45th at 17-over 227 (74-77-76).
“I was happy to see Martin Trainer play OK in his first college tournament,” Zambri said. “I was happy to see Sam Smith play a good nine every day … T.J. Vogel played OK. His score counted for us every day.”
Sophomore Steve Lim rounded out the USC group. He tied for 52nd at 19-over 229 (77-79-73).
Most of the team struggled in the final round, although Zambri attributed that more to coincidence than nerves or fatigue.
“One of your rounds has to be your worst,” he said. “It was a tough golf course and we really didn’t play as well as I know we can.”
Giles, Trainer and Vogel all had their worst round of the weekend on Sunday. Only Lim posted his best score of the tournament on the final day.
Zambri and assistant coach Josh Brewer sat down with each player after the tournament and told them where they needed to improve.
“Some of them it was more physical and some of them it was a little more mental,” he said. “If they improve, they’re really talented and we have a chance to be one of the better teams.”
The Trojans will get their first chance to prove him right this weekend at The Fall Preview in Bremerton, Wash.