San Diego State men’s golf placed first in the Southwestern Invitational hosted by Pepperdine University. The victory marks an exciting return to play seeing as this was the Aztecs’ first competition since their 2019-20 season was cut short due to the pandemic.
During the three-day event held at the North Ranch Country Club in Westlake Village, California, the Aztecs had a rocky start on day one due to factors like cold weather and gusty winds. Nonetheless the team carded a 6-over-par 294 on the par-72, 6,992-yard. By day two, they were tied for third with Southern Methodist University after firing a 1-under-par 287 Tuesday in the second round at the par-72, 6,992-yard.
Of the 12 teams that competed, SDSU finished the tournament at 10-over-par 874 to beat Arizona State (+13) by three shots at the par-72, 6,992-yard.
Despite the team’s rough start, head coach Ryan Donovan said the team was able to bounce back and take the win due to the team’s constant persistence and accountability.
“The chemistry, I think it’s very important in college athletics,” Donovan said. “When guys are supporting each other and pushing each other and working towards one common goal, good things happen. And so far, we’re off to a good start.”
Since it had been almost a year since the Aztecs competed in an event like this, Donovan was just as excited to share the joy and passion for the sport as the players.
“I told the guys I felt like a kid at Christmas,” Donovan said. “It was just like so much joy and enthusiasm and excitement. It was just a good feeling to be able to do what I love to do as a coach and see the excitement from the players which really made a nice couple days.”
Junior Youssef Guezzale was the Aztecs’ top individual finisher, tying for third at even-par 216 after shooting a final round 3-over 75 on the final day of the event. Donovan said this was one of Guezzale’s best performances and his improvement from freshman year showed through this tournament.
“His freshman year, he actually qualified for quite a few events and was just a little bit young and not used to the system,” Donovan said. “He’s really worked hard to break in taking this pandemic time to focus on himself mature, get his golf game back where it should be.”
With more time to practice and prep during the offseason due to the pandemic, Guezzale said he was ready and excited to be back on the green.
“We had a lot of time to work on our game to get things in shape,” Guezzale said. “But yeah, it felt good to get out there. Especially on a big stage with the guys, I got a good group of guys.”
Even though the Aztecs took the victory, Guezzale said the weather affected him and the team, but it’s a part of the game and the unpredictability of weather is something they have to persevere through.
“Yesterday was tough,” Guezzale said. “I made three double bogeys on the front nine, which is not good. Threw a lot of shots away, but just didn’t give up and kept fighting. We were still on it.
“I didn’t check my phone until like whole 13 and I saw we were one shot off the lead and I just told myself, ‘okay, we need to get things going and make a couple birdies coming in and made it happen.’”
Inconvenient weather conditions did not affect a majority of the players like it did for senior team captain Puwit Anupansuebsai, who tied for 20th after his second straight 1-over 73, resulting in an 8-over 224. Anupansuebsai gathered four birdies in his final round, offset by three bogeys and a double bogey.
“I mean, it’s hard for everybody, not just for me,” Anupansuebsai said. “It’s definitely not what we see every day in California, so we just have to adapt to it. But the hard part for me was controlling the ball flight and stuff like that, because the wind was pulling like 30 miles per hour.”
Unlike many of his teammates, Anupansuebsai was able to participate in some events during December, which was a different experience for him as opposed to competing with his team. With practices being held socially distanced and following the safety guidelines with COVID-19, this was the first time in a long time the team was able to show out as a unit; however, Anupansuebsai said he has faith in his teammates and their dynamic.
“Trying to get people together and have a good team chemistry,” Anupansuebsai said. “Try to have everybody trust each other’s games, so we can go out there and just compete. And whatever happens, we know the other guys would have our back. My role as a captain is to just go out there and try to lead everybody to kind of play their best, and hopefully we can get a win.”
Since this was the Aztecs’ first tournament win since claiming the Bill Cullum Invitational on Oct. 14-15, 2019, Donovan and his team feel confident that this victory will provide momentum for the rest of the season. Anupansuebsai said he shares the same sentiment.
“This is a really big motivation of what we work towards and what we’re trying to accomplish in the future,” Anupansuebsai said. “So it is just a little step that we know that we’re good enough to win and we just proved that. It’s just going to push us harder to try to win more.”
The Aztecs’ next competition will be held Feb. 15-17 at the Prestige in La Quinta, California.
— to thedailyaztec.com