USC captures tournament title for year’s first victory

The USC men’s golf team used a late surge at the Lamkin Grips San Diego Classic to overtake co-host San Diego State and take home its first team victory of the season. The No. 23 Trojans shot a scorching 8-under during yesterday’s final round, putting them at 12-under for the tournament. The Aztecs finished seven strokes behind USC, followed by Wake Forest and Michigan.

Back on track · Freshman Rico Hoey, who has struggled this spring after a strong fall season, finished the San Diego Classic in second place. - Courtesy of USC Sports Information

Back on track · Freshman Rico Hoey, who has struggled this spring after a strong fall season, finished the San Diego Classic in second place. – Courtesy of USC Sports Information

After Monday’s 36-hole marathon the Trojans were in striking distance, trailing San Diego State by only two strokes. USC duplicated its first round score of 2-under in the second round, while the Aztecs’ strong first round 5-under was enough to hold on to the lead at the par-72 San Diego CC in Chula Vista, Calif.

Freshman Rico Hoey and senior Jeffrey Kang posted strong scores during the first two rounds of play, keeping their team in the hunt. Hoey’s second-round 69 was especially helpful, as it was just one of two under-par scores the Trojans managed in that round. The other was a 2-under 70 from junior Anthony Paolucci.

USC’s spectacular third-round performance was a true team effort, as was the entire event. Each of the four Trojans that contributed their scores to the final standings finished the tournament in 11th place or higher. Leading the charge was Hoey, who added a second sub-70 effort with a 67 in the third round. The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. native finished second on the individual leaderboard, best on his team.

San Diego State’s Xander Schauffele captured the individual title with an 11-under par on the tournament, two strokes ahead of Hoey. Fortunately for USC, Schauffele’s teammates failed to rally behind his inspiring performance. Aside from Nahum Mendoza III, no other Aztec managed under a 75 in the final round.

Junior Eric Sugimoto was USC’s second-best finisher at 2-under, good for a sixth place tie. Sugimoto bookended a 2-over 74 with 70s in the opening and closing rounds. The transfer from Pacific came into the event as the team’s fourth-seeded player. Kang finished tied for eighth place, a stroke behind Sugimoto at 1-under. The team captain was consistent throughout the tournament, stringing together scores of 71, 73 and 71. Paolucci, the Trojans’ No. 1 seed, struggled in Monday’s first round with a 2-over 74. The junior, who is coming off of his first career win at the Jones Sports Invitational, bounced back with scores of 70 and 72 in the final two rounds, finishing in a tie for 11th place.

After his team fell to San Diego State by just one stroke at the its last event, head coach Chris Zambri praised his team’s performance yesterday and acknowledged Hoey’s exceptional performance.

“We are all very excited and happy to get a win. It never gets old to win,” Zambri said. “Everyone played well in today’s final round, but Rico Hoey stood out with a fine 67. He played great.”

Wake Forest attempted to surpass both the Trojans and the Aztecs during yesterday’s final round, but the team ended up three strokes behind the Aztecs to capture third.

Freshman Danny Guise of the Demon Deacons posted a 5-under 67 for the low score of the final round, tying Hoey, Schauffele and Alex Franklin of Oregon State. The Pac-12 rival Beavers failed to rally behind Franklin’s strong final round, finishing in sixth place.

The promising finish by the Trojans will certainly help them as they travel to Stanford Golf Club in Palo Alto, Calif., where they will face off against No. 8 Stanford in two weeks. After finishing 24-strokes behind the Cardinal three weeks ago at The Prestige at PGA West, the team hopes to build on its most recent performances as it goes up against some of the toughest competitors in the nation.