ASU men's golf defeats UA in inaugural Copper Cup

The two-day golf tournament was the season opener for both teams

ASU men’s golf won its first tournament of the season 12.5-11.5 against UA in the inaugural Copper Cup at the Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa on Jan. 17-18.

The Copper Cup is molded similarly to the Ryder Cup —  a two-day tournament consisting of four four-ball matches and eight singles matches on the first day, and four foursome matches with alternating shots and eight more singles matches on the second day. 

Each match win is a point for the victor, and a tie is a half-point for each side. The winning team must secure 12.5 of the 24 points available for the victory.

Day One

The tournament started with the pairing of sophomores David Puig and Ryggs Johnston. The two started hot, going up seven against the Wildcat duo of Chase Sienkiewicz and Sam Sommerhauser, and closed the deal at the 13th hole. 

The two middle matches were close, each school earning one point. The last match of the morning was a similar blowout to the first match, but with the Sun Devils suffering defeat this time. Following the four four-ball matches, it was all tied up at two.

The first day of singles matches was the toughest for the Sun Devils, going 3-4 with one tie. The tie came between Chun An Yu of ASU and Brad Reeves of UA.

After the first day, the Wildcats held a narrow lead, 6.5-5.5.

Day Two

The second day began with four more foursome matches, this time with alternating shots between the team members. ASU head coach Matt Thurmond was challenged to find good pairings within the team before the game.

“We’ve been thinking about who fits well, and who likes hanging out with each other, and whose games complement each other, and we’ve asked them about it and who they want to play with,” Thurmond said in the week leading up to the tournament.

The foursome matches ended in a split much like the day prior, this time with the Puig/Johnston pair losing and the Yu/Wagoner pair winning. Before the start of the afternoon matches, the Wildcats were leading with 8.5 points to the Sun Devils' 7.5.

ASU’s seventh and eighth golfers, Jeewon Park and Gabe Salvanera were the first two singles matches and both lost, bringing UA’s point total to 10.5 with plenty of golfers left to seal the victory, needing just two more points to clinch.

Thurmond felt confident, however. When making the schedule, he organized it to focus on the middle matches. 

“In match play, people always think about, ‘do you load up your front? Do you load up your back?’ We’re loaded everywhere, we just have to sweep the middle matches,” coach Thurmond said.

ASU went on to win five of the remaining six singles matches to win the tournament. Puig and Cameron Sisk were the final two points needed to bring the Sun Devils across the 12.5 point threshold to win. 

Puig was one down after 15 holes, but was able to win two straight holes and tie the next to secure the final point needed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Puig cited his experience from his playing days in Spain for his clutch finish.

“We have a lot of tournaments like this in Spain and in Europe,” Puig said. “I think it helped me a little bit. I just tried to play my best and follow my plan. I’m really happy and I’m really proud of the team.”

Coach Thurmond and the players echoed the importance of gaining experience in the type of match-play they saw at the Copper Cup. The team does not normally see it before the Regionals and Nationals tournament. 

“We don't get a chance to play match-play very often, so it’s definitely a good chance for us to get used to this format, and I think we did a really good job,” Yu said. “Hopefully we play better in May.”

Arizona State will continue its season at the Southwestern Invitational in California, Jan. 25-27.


Reach the reporter at drodish@asu.edu and follow @david_rodish on Twitter.

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