Men’s golf takes Southern Highlands Collegiate

Junior Issei Tanabe tied for ninth place in the Southern Highlands Collegiate at 2-under 214 (71-74-69). (Photo courtesy of USC Athletics)

The USC men’s golf team dominated several top-ranked teams including No. 1 Pepperdine, No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 6 Texas in the 15-team field at UNLV’s Southern Highlands Collegiate Sunday through Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Despite enduring three days of harsh conditions at Southern Highlands, the Trojans came out on top with a total combined team score of 3-under 861 (287-283-291) for all three rounds.

The victory in Las Vegas is the men’s first overall team victory this season. Leading the Trojans was freshman Yuxin Lin, who maintained the lead with two 67s (10-under) and made it to a playoff for the individual title.

Lin just fell short to Texas sophomore Parker Coody in the playoff, ending with a 74 on the final round, but his 67 was one of his best performances of his season — his sixth round in the 60s.

Lin and junior Issei Tanabe contributed to two of the Trojans’ top 10 individual finishes of the tournament. Tanabe successfully battled on the second day and ended the tournament with a 69 and a 2-under total 214 (71-74-69).

The team’s improved wedge game helped it seize numerous birdie opportunities even with the change in altitude and heavy winds, giving USC the advantage over its opponents.

“Coach prepared us well for the tournament,” Tanabe said after finishing his best performance of the season. “Every one of us contributed to a part of this win. We all had our moments and whatever we did during each round, each hole and each shot specifically, we were all focused 100%. That’s why we won.”

A crucial birdie on 18 from sophomore Cameron Henry elevated USC to a three-stroke advantage before Lin’s last hole. Henry finished 25th with a 3-over 219 (72-70-77) while junior Leon D’Souza tied for 67th at 14-over 230 (79-72-79).

The team had been close to victory before in this spring season as the Trojans tied for second in the Southwestern Invitational with a total of 3-over 837 (299-289-279). Southern Highlands was different right out of the gate, as the Trojans came in hot and never let go of the lead.

Head coach Chris Zambri and assistant coach Bobby Gojuangco have established a philosophy of entering every match with no expectations to allow the players to go in clear-headed. That mentality seemed to pay off in Las Vegas, and USC will hope to keep its momentum moving forward.

“At some point, we are going to have to start playing well,” Zambri said. “They were ready this week. Their games were good. The conditions were really tough, and the guys did unbelievably well. We have just enough guys in our lineup who don’t mind the wind and it paid off for us.”

USC will have more than a week off before traveling to Tucson, Ariz. during spring break for the National Invitational Tournament March 16 and 17.