Men’s golf looks for consistency

With the postseason looming, the ASU men’s golf team will have one last chance to iron out the kinks and turn the corner at the 65th Annual Western Intercollegiate in Santa Cruz, Calif., on Saturday and Sunday.

Despite their experience and talent, the Sun Devils haven’t been able to get consistent production all season.

Five players have finished in the top-10 during events this year, including senior transfer Thomas Buran (twice), senior James Byrne, junior Philip Francis (twice), senior Jesper Kennegard (twice) and senior Scott Pinckney (four).

Yet after nine competitions, ASU has had multiple top-10 finishers in the same tournament only four times. This constant inconsistency has plagued the Sun Devils all year, lowering the team to No. 29 in the most recent Golfweek/Sargarin rankings.

“We just have to keep working, because I know we can get there,” Kennegard said.

The field promises to be tough at the northern California tournament, with four top-20 teams competing. It will also be a good precursor to the Pac-10 tournament, which will be hosted by Stanford at the end of April. This weekend’s field also includes seven conference teams and four that are ranked ahead of ASU.

The strong favorites for the event are No. 2 UCLA, the top-ranked team in the tournament, No. 23 USC, after its dominant performance at the ASU Thunderbird on April 10, which it won by 14 strokes, and unranked Oregon, which is the defending champion.

The top individual golfers include No. 2 freshman Patrick Cantlay of UCLA and No. 3 freshman Andrew Yun of Stanford.

Even with his disappointing 12th place finish at home in the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, Pinckney is still the biggest threat for the Sun Devils, despite breaking his four-tournament top-10 streak.

Pinckney shot a career-low 5-under-par 66 on his first round of the ASU Thunderbird and said that fatigue played a pivotal role in his second-round score of a 3-over-par 71, which took place immediately after the first round. The Sun Devils are looking forward to the postseason, as Pinckney thinks they have a deep enough team to win a championship, he said after the tournament.

Another obstacle the team will have to face again in the Western Intercollegiate will be the weather, as the forecasts for Saturday, the first day of the tournament, predict a cloudy sky with a high of 69 degrees. The team had to battle the cold in its last tournament as well.

“It is nice to see the how a team plays in less than ideal conditions.” ASU coach Randy Lein said. “I think overall they handled it pretty well.”

The team will field all five previously mentioned players alongside senior Oscar Zetterwall, whose highest finish this year is tied for 24th.

The last time ASU won the event was in 1977. Altogether the Sun Devils have won four times. Four players have taken home individual titles, with the last one coming from Scott Watkins in 1979.

Reach the reporter at jjmckelv@asu.edu