The Occidental women’s golf team struggled in the SCIAC #2 tournament at South Hills Country Club in West Covina, Calif., over the weekend. Battling tough conditions and a poor Saturday showing, the women finished sixth, only ahead of La Verne.
The Tigers were coming off their most successful tournament of the season at the Cal Lutheran Invitational — where they placed third out of nine teams — and had hoped to carry over their focus and assert themselves in conference play.
Team captain Kristin Oberiano (senior) fought the first round winds, posting a team low 14-over 86 in the tournament’s opening 18 holes. Oberiano finished the second round with a 13-over 85, a score that would become a tournament-low for the Tigers. Despite her struggles, Oberiano still led Occidental with a top-10 finish.
“We did not play our best game and everyone, including the other teams, struggled on the course,” Oberiano said. “The course looked easy, but the scores showed otherwise.”
Throughout the weekend the Tigers were unable to find their rhythm. Fast greens and difficult pin positions were the primary factors behind Occidental’s inability to close out their rounds, although the large trees lining the fairways also made approach shots all the more difficult.
“It was almost like watching the US Open or Master’s based on the speed and severity of the greens,” head coach Will Morris said. “Numerous times, I witnessed players hitting a putt off the green, while three putts were another common occurrence.”
Although the course conditions inflated scores, Occidental first-year Samantha Rocha was able to adjust her game accordingly. Rocha, who posted a 21-over 93 on Saturday, shaved 11 strokes off her Sunday score and catapulted herself to a 14th place overall finish.
Following Oberiano and Rocha’s example, the rest of Occidental’s golfers also acclimated to the difficult course set up, as the entire team posted Sunday scores lower than their opening-round Saturday scores.
“As a team we all found the first day of the tournament to be challenging, but by the second day we found our stride and really showed improvement,” Hana Mizuno (senior) said.
First-years Michelle Kong and Katy Uchiyama rounded out the scoring for the Tigers, with Kong posting a two-day total of 41-over (185) and Uchiyama coming in at 53-over (197) for the weekend.
Also traveling with Occidental, but playing as an individual, was Ella Inman (senior). Unfortunately, success remained out of Inman’s reach for the majority of the tournament, as she posted scores of 41 and 29 over.
While the team’s poor Saturday showing slotted the Tigers into sixth place after the first round with a score of 369, their Sunday team total of 343 was only four strokes off from the score posted by the tournament champions CMS. Additionally, Occidental finished just nine shots back of fifth place Cal Lutheran and 26 strokes from fourth place Whittier. The Tigers impressive second round play showed that when they were in a groove they could compete with anyone in the conference.
Nevertheless, the Tigers still have a lot of work to do before they can be considered major contenders within the SCIAC conference, according to Oberiano.
“This was a wake-up call for our team; we need to use the next three weeks to mentally and physically prepare for the SCIAC championships,” she said. “There we can push through and end the season on a high note.”
The next time the Occidental women’s golf team tee it up will be for the season finale SCIAC Championship at Oak Valley Golf Club April 23.