Trojans head to Hawaii for spring season opener

The No. 11 men’s golf team will tee off in its first spring competition at the 22nd Annual Amer Ari Invitational at King’s Course in Waikoloa, Hawaii on Wednesday.

USC will compete in a field of 20 teams, including No. 1 ranked Texas, No. 3 Auburn, No. 5 North Florida and reigning NCAA-champion Augusta State.

Under par · Senior Steve Lim is one of many Trojans hoping to start the spring season off on the right foot. The team finished No. 11 in 2011. - Photo courtesy of USC Sports Information

The tournament is the team’s first since November 2011, when USC closed out its fall schedule by winning the Gifford Collegiate Championship in San Martin, Calif. Senior Steve Lim earned his first career individual victory at the event, which the Trojans won by four strokes overall.

The Gifford Collegiate Championship was one of three events USC competed in last fall.

Though it’s been two months since the team last entered a competitive tournament, their expectations remain just as high as before the hiatus.

“We’re coming off quite a long break, but the good news is we have a lot of motivated guys on the team who worked hard over winter break,” USC coach Chris Zambri said.

After winning the Pac-10 championship in 2011, the team is hoping that its success will continue carrying over to the inaugural Pac-12 2011-2012 season.

Junior Martin Trainer, who won the 2011 Pac-10 individual champion title and was named an All-Pac-10 first team member last year, should further bolster the veteran Trojan team even though he ranks at the bottom of the six-man squad with an average of 73.11 strokes.

Two-time All-Pac 10 second teamer Lim comes into Waikoloa leading the team with an average of 71.22 strokes and is ranked 24th individually.  Freshman Anthony Paolucci ranks second on the USC squad, with an average of 71.89 strokes. Sophomores Jeffrey Kang and Ramsey Sahyoun are averaging 72.56 and 72.67 respectively. Junior Sam Smith is averaging 72.50.

For sixth-year coach Zambri, the road to the first Pac-12 championship begins with the Amer Ari Invitational.

“Our expectations are to go out and compete for a title here,” Zambri said.

In his first five years as coach, Zambri has reached the NCAA championships every season and has won two Pac-10 titles along the way.

Six of the top-12 NCAA teams, including USC, are members of the Pac-12 — No. 2 Oregon, No. 4 UCLA, No. 7 Stanford, No. 10 Washington and No. 12 California.

No. 1 Texas comes into the invitational wielding the top two players in the country, senior Dylan Frittelli and freshman Jordan Spieth.

“They had a dominant fall,” Zambri said.

USC is scheduled to compete in five tournaments after the Amer Ari Invitational. At the end of the season the Trojans will host the NCAA Championships at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

The Amer Ari Invitational begins at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and ends Saturday.