Men’s golf not up to par in Cypress Point Classic

Junior Leon D’Souza chips onto the green. D’Souza and his partner tied a pair from Stanford during Monday’s opening round. (Image courtesy of USC Athletics)

USC men’s golf finished out its fall season in disappointing fashion with a last place performance at the Cypress Point Classic in Pebble Beach, Calif., Monday and Tuesday. The Trojans fell in all three of their matchups against No. 9 Stanford, No. 21 Alabama and No. 16 Cal.

The Cypress Point Classic is a bracket-style tournament similar to the Ryder Cup with championship and consolation routes determined by Monday’s opening fourball round. The eight teams were pre-seeded, and each team was split into three pairs for head-to-head competition. In each match, 4 points were assigned according to who won the front nine, the back nine and the overall match.

In the opening round, No. 5 seed USC played against host No. 4 Stanford for a berth in the championship bracket. The pair of sophomore Cameron Henry and junior Leon D’Souza tied Stanford sophomore Ethan Ng and junior Nate Menon, while senior Kyle Suppa and junior Issei Tanabe followed suit by matching their opponents’ score. Stanford senior David Snyder and freshman Barclay Brown snagged the match at 2-1, getting the edge over USC’s last pair, junior Kaito Onishi and freshman Yuxin Lin. 

The loss by Onishi and Lin was a departure from their usual standout tournament performances. The All-American Onishi was coming off a third-place finish at the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate, while Lin won the major Asia-Pacific Amateur title at the end of September to earn berths in the 2019 Masters and Open Championships.

The pair recovered for the next Monday match against No. 8 seed Alabama, securing the Trojans’ only pair win for the tournament over Alabama’s junior Wilson Furr and freshman Simms Abney. Henry and D’Souza fell 3&2 in their round, and Alabama also defeated Tanabe and Suppa to claim the match 2-1 overall.

“I don’t think we necessarily had a real sound, strong week through and through,” head coach Chris Zambri said. “I know there were moments of good golf, but overall, I don’t think anyone necessarily had their best week. The matches were close, but in the end it comes down to winning and losing, and we just did not win clearly enough throughout the week.”

No. 7 seed Cal ran away with the seventh place match in Tuesday’s singles match play. Only Onishi tied his opponent; Henry and Suppa fell in 1up, Lin lost in 2up and Tanabe and D’Souza were defeated 2&1 and 5&4, respectively. Alabama finished with 5.5 points, while USC’s one tie led to a team total of 0.5.

No. 2 seed Georgia Tech won the overall tournament in a 5-1 match win over No. 1 Duke in the championship match. No. 3 UCLA captured the third place spot on the podium over Stanford, and No. 6 Illinois beat out Alabama for fifth.

Set in both the coastal dunes and Del Monte forest, the par-72 Cypress Point is consistently rated as one of the greatest challenging golf courses ever designed. Competing on this golf course as a collegiate player is a prestigious opportunity, with six of the participating teams ranked among Golfstat’s top 30 teams in the nation. 

At No. 40 in the country, USC currently does not hold a spot on this list. The GCAA has yet to release its rankings going into the second half of the year, but USC is likely to fall from its starting position at No. 11 with no team podium placements thus far. 

Team action picks up again at the end of January with the Southwestern Invitational in Westlake Village, Calif. In their time off, the Trojans will have the chance to reflect on both their team finishes and the productivity of their standout players.

“Obviously, the results were not what we wanted, but we’ve got the majority of our season left to play,” Zambri said. “There’s definitely some good among some of the stuff that didn’t go quite as well in the first semester, so hopefully we’ll focus on that and just make sure we’re ready come spring.”

It is yet to be seen if newcomers Yuxin and D’Souza will continue to prove their value to the team and if Onishi will provide the leadership and course command lost with the absence of now-pro Justin Suh.

If the Trojans still have their eyes set on an NCAA title this year, they must work toward more team tournament placements alongside top individual finishes in the second half of the season.