No. 11 USC men’s golf had a solid first outing of the season at the competitive 15-team Maui Jim Invitational in Scottsdale, Ariz., this past weekend. The team shot a total of 825, tying for fifth overall behind high-seeded teams such as No. 2 ASU and No. 17 Clemson.
The Trojans collectively kept under par throughout the low field tournament, finishing with a 15-under score after consistent daily postings of 272, 274 and 279. Arizona State won the event with a 38-under 802, while Arizona and Clemson followed with 31-under and 29-under performances.
The team’s newcomers stepped up from the start. Freshman Yuxin Lin shot a 4-under 66 in the first round, while junior transfer Leon D’Souza shot a 3-under 67. The Trojans finished seventh after the first day, with an 8-under-par performance. Even with the low finish, the Trojans couldn’t keep up with the top of the leaderboard, as ASU and Arizona ran away with 18-under and 12-under team finishes.
D’Souza struggled in the second round, with two double bogeys that led to a 3-over 73 finish. Sophomore Charlie Reiter rallied from an early double bogey to end the day carding 1-under 69, while senior Kyle Suppa closed out the round even par with three birdies against a double bogey.
The Trojans rallied in round three from their seventh place spot following the first two rounds. With a solid 1-under-par performance on the final day, USC beat out Kent State, which shot 7-over-par in the final round. Junior Issei Tanabe gave the team a final push with a 2-under third round as a result of key birdies on the back nine.
Lin came out on top in his collegiate debut. Tying for 12th in individual performance for the tournament, Lin shot an impressive overall 7-under with 14 birdies and an eagle on his card. For the freshman from Beijing, China, the Maui Jim Invitational marks the beginning of a promising golf career at USC.
“It’s such an honor to represent USC,” Lin said. “Especially at my first event, I just [felt] all the support and help from the coaches.”
Tanabe tied for 21st at 4-under 206 while Suppa and Reiter tied for 37th at even par 210. D’Souza finished the tournament tied for 57th at 5-over 215. Lin said the team still has room to grow in terms of shot strategy.
“Our course strategy could’ve been better for certain shots,” he said. “It’s our first event. We still need more practice to get better and be ready for the next event.”
The Maui Jim Invitational wasn’t the only source of action for the men’s golf team this weekend. Sophomore Cameron Henry and freshman Tyler Guo were also in Arizona competing at the Mea Lanakila Individual at the Desert Forest Golf Club. Henry tied for 13th, carding 5-over 221, while Guo finished 35th with a rough 21-over 91 first round and a final score of 38-over 254.
USC will send five players to Portland, Ore., in two weeks to play in the Nike Collegiate while Lin, D’Souza and Guo will head to Shanghai, China, to compete in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
While the three players heading to China won’t be representing USC, the experience playing in the amateur tournament will allow them to bolster their playing ability for later tournaments. If the Trojans hope to make podiums this season, their consistency must meet shot strategy to match the performance of the upcoming densely competitive fields.