By King Jemison
The Stanford men’s golf team completed the fall portion of its season on Wednesday with a 22-under-par second-place finish at the St Mary’s Invitational, held at Poppy Hills Golf Club in Pebble Beach. Junior Brandon Wu paced the Cardinal with a fifth-place finish at seven-under, a fitting conclusion to his stellar fall season.
USC won the tournament with a 28-under total, including a 15-under performance in the final round that stretched a one-stroke lead over the Cardinal heading into the day out to the final six-shot margin. Stanford was in second place after each round of the three day tournament, as they trailed by two strokes to San Francisco after round one.
The Cardinal started off the tournament with a one-under total on Monday before exploding with a 21-under burst on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“We did a nice job on the par five’s at Poppy Hills,” Stanford head coach Conrad Ray said about his team’s low total. “The conditions were perfect for scoring as well, and after getting out to a solid start in round one, we continued the positive trend.”
Wu followed the same trend as his team. He started out with a one-under 70 on Monday and then turned in a four-under 67 on Tuesday before finishing with a two-under 69. His seven-under total put him in fifth, but ultimately left him just one shot shy of a tie for second.
Leading the Cardinal was business as usual for Wu this fall season. He came into the season with tremendous momentum after a big win at the prestigious Porter Cup over the summer. In the fall, he finished first for his team in all four major tournaments, including a tie for second at the Nike Golf Collegiate Invite where he lost by just one stroke to Oregon’s Norman Xiong. The junior had only one over-par round all fall and ended up in the top 12 of every tournament.
“It has been a huge break out fall for Brandon,” Ray said about his new star. “It is a matter of time before he is in the winner’s circle and neat to see how he has stepped up to be our number-one guy.”
Though Wu was tremendous, it was the depth and balance of the Cardinal that led them to a high finish at St. Mary’s. All five players recorded top-20 finishes at Poppy Hills. No other school even had five in the top 40. Additionally, the Stanford five all finished within six shots of one another. No other team had less than a nine-shot gap.
Senior Franklin Huang came in just behind Wu with a five-under total that left him in a tie for eighth. Fellow senior Jeffrey Swegle finished at a four-under tie for 14th, one shot ahead of junior Isaiah Salinda who ended up in a tie for 18th. Rounding out the Cardinal lineup was senior Bradley Knox, who finished in a tie for 20th at one-under.
“We have the deepest team I have ever had in my years of coaching one to 11,” Ray said about his team’s balance. “Each week, someone new has the ability to win for us and that consistency through the lineup will be a huge factor to take advantage of as the season progresses.”
The combination of Wu’s consistently solid play at number-one and the team’s strong depth throughout the line-up led to a strong fall season for the Cardinal. Against one of the toughest tournament schedules in Division 1 Golf, Stanford recorded two second place finishes and one tie for sixth. Golfstat has the Cardinal currently ranked 11th in the nation.
“I think our fall results are promising and bode well for a successful spring,” Ray said. “To win, we will need to tighten up our ball-striking and and avoid the occasional big number which plagued some of our guys this fall.”
The team will have a long break to work on that and much more over the winter. Stanford will return to action on Feb. 1 at the Amer Ari Intercollegiate in Hawaii.
Contact King Jemison at kingj ‘at’ stanford.edu.