The Occidental men’s and women’s golf teams battled through difficult weather conditions to post competitive scores in the SCIAC Championship Tournament this past weekend.
On the first day, Kristin Oberiano (senior) led the women’s team by posting a solid 9-over round (81). First-years Michelle Kong and Samantha Rocha showed no nerves in their first SCIAC Championship Tournament, as both golfers posted scores of 85. Collectively, the women finished the first day in sixth place with a score of 338. While the Tigers remained in the hunt, they set their sights higher for the coming rounds.
“We all played fairly well the first round,” Hana Mizuno (senior) said. “However, none of us were really satisfied with our performances.”
On the men’s side, Dylan Jirsa (sophomore) finished his first round with an eagle to card an even par 72 and tied for the low score of the day for the Tigers with teammate Cam Connor (sophomore), who also eagled in the final hole to post a 72. With the two sophomores leading the way, the men finished the first day in a tie for third place with a score of 300.
While both the men’s and women’s teams started the tournament with solid scores, the second round posed a challenge as the weather started to turn on the players.
“The conditions on Sunday were reasonable as far as weather, but the greens were not rolling smoothly,” head coach Will Morris said. “Monday’s weather started off brutal. It was cold, windy and rainy, just overall very difficult conditions.”
The women’s team struggled to cope with the turbulent weather (it hailed during the round). Their second day team total jumped six strokes to a 56-over 344. Despite the slide as a team, Oberiano and Kong improved their day one totals by a stroke (80 and 84 respectively).
“I moved up five spots between Sunday and Monday’s rounds,” Oberiano said. “It is probably unlikely that I can win, but I think I still have a shot at a top five finish.”
Although the weather hampered the scores on the women’s side, the men seemed to thrive with the adverse conditions. Men’s team captain Colton Bares (junior) stormed back from a sub-par first round score of 79 by posting a day-two tournament low of 4-under (68). Jirsa continued his consistent play by posting a 1-over 73, which cemented himself as the third place individual through two rounds.
“My game has been good enough to go under par, but I get nervous and stumble coming down the stretch,” Jirsa said. “However, I tried to put pressure on myself during all the practices to prepare for what it feels like to play in a tournament like this.”
In addition to the low rounds by Bares and Jirsa, Will Mansfield (first year) dropped three strokes from his first day total to card a 3-over 75. Collectively, the men’s team posted their best round of the season with a score of 292.
Although the Tigers did not move up the team leader board, they were able to make up strokes, as they only sat two strokes away from first place Cal Lutheran through two days of play.
With only one round remaining, the Tigers are in a position to win the first SCIAC Championship for the men’s Occidental golf program. A win would also mean that the team would receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. However, in order to for them to succeed the young team — with only one upper-division player — will have to keep their composure.
“The main thing is for them to continue to do what they have been doing,” swing coach Joe Cano said. “The other teams are not going to come back to us. We need to stay aggressive and catch them by limiting any big score damage and accepting a bogey when it happens.”
Despite the youth of both Occidental teams, the groups have shown considerable improvement in what was thought to be a rebuilding year. The men’s team went from finishing in the lower half of the SCIAC conference last year to sitting in third place through with only one round to play in the final tournament of the year. Likewise, the women’s team has moved up two spots from the SCIAC basement and still have room to improve, as five members of the team are first years.
*The final round was in progress at the time of publication.