It’s all coming together nicely for the USC men.
After sharing the team title with Washington at The Prestige at PGA West on Feb. 20, the Trojans won a second straight event, capturing the North Ranch Intercollegiate on Feb. 26. Add in a T-4 in their spring opener at the Amer Ari Invitational and it’s been an ideal start to 2013 for USC head coach Chris Zambri.
“I’m really pleased,” Zambri said. “All our guys are showing signs of being good enough and that we can be a really great team.”
Just how good has USC been?
The Trojans didn’t win during the fall, but also didn’t finish worse than T-4. They are the No. 7 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, rising a spot after their victory in Westlake Village, Calif.
Freshman Yi Keun Chang has been a huge boost for this squad, winning his first collegiate title at the North Ranch. The victory was his fourth top 10 of the season, and he hasn’t finished worse than T-26 in six events this season.
“He’s a hard worker,” Zambri said. “He’s really solid from tee to green, not super long, but not short, either. He chips well. He putts well. I would expect him to continue to play well.”
Sophomore Anthony Paolucci snapped a streak of three straight top 10s at the North Ranch – he finished T-15. Senior Sam Smith and juniors Ramsey Sahyoun and Jeffrey Kang round out a very potent lineup for the Trojans. Of the five players with 15 or more rounds played this season, two of them, Paolucci and Chang, have scoring averages in the 71s, and three more are 73.47 or better.
“We’ve gotten a lot out of (Chang),” Zambri said. “My other four guys, I’ve seen a lot of improvement and they are really close to going from playing like a No. 2 or 3 guy to a No. 1 guy. There’s a chance they could do that this season, and that’s what we’re hoping for.”
USC has shown an ability to adapt to courses. Most recently in Westlake Village, the Trojans, collectively a long team off the tee, proved they could play well on a shorter course in North Ranch Country Club. They’ll play at Southern Highlands Country Club in Las Vegas next week.
If USC can continue on this roll, expect this team to better last year’s T-15 finish at the NCAA Championship.
But for now, the Trojans will focus on winning a third tournament in a row.