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M. Golf: First on the island

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The No. 2 Stanford men’s golf team won its spring season opener last week at the Mauna Lani Invitational, hosted by University of Hawaii-Manoa and UH-Hilo. The Cardinal started out the tournament slowly, ending the first round in a tie for sixth, but really stepped up in the second round, posting a five-under-par to eventually bask in a come-from-behind win.

The Stanford men’s golf team, No. 2 in the nation, shot an overall five-under-par to take the tournament title at the Hawaii-Hilo Invitational last week. (Stanford Daily File Photo)

Stanford came in a full three strokes ahead of the pack, beating some of the top teams in the nation and potential NCAA crown contenders. Pac-10 teams dominated the top five — No. 29 Oregon and No. 12 Washington tied for second with a five-over overall score. No. 8 Texas finished in fourth with six-over, while the No. 1 team in the nation, Oklahoma, finished fifth with seven-over-par for the tournament.

“It’s really exciting to win in a field with 10 teams ranked in the national top 25,” said head coach Conrad Ray. “We put in a lot of hard work in the offseason to be able to come out strong and put on a show.”

No. 5 junior Sihwan Kim led the Cardinal to victory, posting consistent scores of 72, 70 and 71 to come out with an overall three-under 213. Kim finished the tournament in a tie for fourth individually in a tight competition for the individual crown. Kim was only four strokes behind tournament winner Buddy Hudson of Texas, who posted a six-under final round score to seize the tournament individual title.

“This finish was really great for Sihwan,” Ray said. “He has been putting really well and is using a really positive mental approach that has been helping his game. He definitely led us the whole way through the tournament.”

“Sihwan was a little frustrated during the closing round,” Ray continued. “He hit a ball out of bounds on the 16th coming down the final stretch, but he birdied on the 18th to make up for it. He knew he had a good chance to win in that field, but regardless, every day he is getting better, and this should be a really exciting season for him.”

No. 19 sophomore David Chung carded a two-over overall score that put him in a tie for 16th. Chung posted a seven-over 79 for the first round, but then dominated the links with a four-under 68 and a one-under 71 to finish strong.

Senior Jordan Cox and freshman Andrew Yun came in with a tie for 29th. Cox was in a tie for eighth after the second round, earning his best individual round score of his career. A four-over 76 in the final round yanked him back to 29th. Conversely, Yun struggled in the first two rounds, posting two consecutive three-over 75s. Yun settled down in the final round with a one-under 71 to help launch his team to victory.

Junior Steve Ziegler rounded out the Cardinal five with a seven-over score of 233.

“We’re usually a team that starts a little slower and finishes strong,” Ray said. “I don’t mind that about us. We weren’t too far back after the first round so we kept plugging away and were able to put together some good rounds to give us the win. It’s nice to have such a deep team.”

The Cardinal hopes to bring this momentum to next month’s tournament against its sworn enemy, USC.

“We are going to do our job to get prepared for a good week at USC,” Ray said. “Hopefully, we will continue to have a place in the winners’ circle.”