After rocky finishes for many of USF’s fall and winter sports, spring teams may be carrying USF athletics this year with strong performances from the track & field squad and a big victory last Tuesday for the men’s golf team at Hiddenbrooke in Vallejo, where they clenched the 2009 WCC championship.
The Dons narrowly defeated second-place finisher Loyola Marymount by one stroke with a three-round team score of 862 to Loyola’s 863 after rallying from near the bottom of the pack in the first round to edge out the Lions.
Of the eight WCC schools in the tournament, USF was in second to last place after the first round of play with a team score of 294, and trailed the leader, Loyola Marymount, by 15 strokes. The Dons had two of the seven worst scores out of a field of 40 golfers, which dragged down their otherwise competitive play.
In the second round, senior Kyle Prolo and freshman Ji Hwan Park came back strong for the Dons, improving by eight and nine strokes respectively on their first round performances. Senior Kurt Nino also delivered an impressive performance, finishing the round eight under par with a 64, the best score of the tournament and matching the all-time WCC Tournament record. All five USF golfers finished the second round under par, leading to a team score of 271, which put them in first place after both rounds with a combined score of 565. The Lions were a close second with 569 after using 19 more strokes than the Dons to complete the second round.
Both the Dons and the Lions struggled in the third round on Tuesday morning where both shot their highest round of the competition. The Dons finished with a 297, just good enough to hold off the Lions by one stroke. Nationally ranked Pepperdine and San Diego tied for third with combined scores of 866, Santa Clara and Gonzaga tied for fifth, and Portland and St. Mary’s rounded out the last two spots.
This Dons victory marks an incredible turn-around for the team who finished seventh in the WCC tournament in 2008.
In winning the WCC tournament the Dons earn an automatic entry into the NCAA regional tournament which the team is hosting in Daly City next month. It is the team’s first appearance in the tournament in 19 years. This marks the 10th time the Dons have won the WCC championship.
Dons coach Dr. Gary Nelson was named WCC Coach of the Year following the conclusion of the tournament. Following the announcement he told the USF Athletics news service, “How often do you make a three-year plan where everything falls into place? It doesn’t happen that often and it’s gratifying to see things fall into place. It didn’t just happen. It took hard work from the players, coaches and support staff. I am proud of this team and how hard they have worked to achieve this.”
Junior Domingo Jojola was named to the All-WCC Team and Nino and junior Chris Cunningham were given honorable mention. Jojola finished the WCC tournament with the second best individual score, a six under par 210, and only one stroke away from the leader.