LA JOLLA, Calif. - The University of California San Diego men's golf team swings into action Monday and Tuesday as it opens the season at the Sonoma State Invitational at Foxtail Golf Club in Rohnert Park.
The 54-hole, eight-team tournament features 36 holes of play Monday with a final 18 Tuesday. Both days will go with an 8 a.m. shotgun start. Playing alongside UC San Diego will be Cal State Dominguez Hills, Dominican, Hawai'i Pacific, Holy Names, Menlo, Sonoma State, and William Jessup. Cal State Dominguez Hills and Sonoma State are receiving votes in the Bushnell Golfweek Preseason Coaches Poll.
This season, the Tritons return six players, including five juniors and a sophomore. The roster is rounded out with four true freshmen.
"We have an experienced group of juniors returning and with the addition of four freshman, we are the deepest since I arrived at UC San Diego," said head coach Jim Ragan, who begins his sixth season at the helm of the program. "I am confident that the lineup will be very fluid this year."
Junior San Diego native Adam Navigato (Solana Beach/Torrey Pines HS) is back after earning All-California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) First Team honors in 2017. As a sophomore, he recorded a team-best 74.3 stroke average and was UC San Diego's top finisher in four of eight events. Navigato picked up his first collegiate win by topping a 104-player field at Cal State Monterey Bay's Otter Invitational. He shot a school- and tournament-record 199, 17 under par, after firing rounds of 69, 65, and 65. It was one of three top-five finishes for Navigato in 2017.
"Adam had some impressive highlights last season including a record-setting performance at the Otter Invitational," said Ragan. "He will have to find more consistency this year for our team to reach its potential."
Also returning is junior Hayden Hui, a 2017 CCAA honorable mention and a member of the CCAA Championships All-Tournament Team. He posted a 75.2 stroke average, the second-best on the team, and placed among the top 10 in three events. Hui's best finish was a fourth at the conference tournament, the best by a Triton since 2013. He carded a two-under par 218, which included a career-best 67 in the third round that rocketed him up 20 spots in the standings.
"Hayden has clearly separated himself from the rest of the team already this year by winning the team's four-round qualifier for our first three events by 14 strokes," said Ragan.
The returning corps also includes juniors Jacob Johnson, Connell Kilpatrick, and Justin Woo (San Diego/Torrey Pines HS), as well as sophomore Ryan Vaughan. Woo, who transferred to UC San Diego from Cal State Monterey Bay, had the team's third-best stroke average in 2017 with a 77.2.
"We have a talented group of freshmen this year and two of the four qualified for our first three events," said Ragan. "After getting to watch them play in our recent qualifier, I see both a lot of potential along with a lot of room for improvement. They will gain a lot of college golf experience in a very short period, which should help them assess their current ability and areas to improve on."
In the lineup for the Tritons at Foxtail will be Chen, Hui, Johnson, Navigato, and Woo. Gross will be playing as an individual and will not figure in the team scoring.
"We were a couple of strokes away from starting three freshmen at Sonoma, the qualifying was very close," said Ragan.
In 2017, UC San Diego finished ninth of 13 teams in the season-opening Sonoma State Invitational. Hui produced the Tritons' top finish, tying for seventh with a 227 (+1) at Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa. Navigato tied for 40th and Johnson tied for 47th.
UC San Diego's best finish last season was a fourth in a 19-team field at the Otter Invitational in October. After placing sixth of 16 at the Fujikura Invitational in February, the Tritons finished no higher than ninth the rest of the way. They concluded the year with a last-place showing at the CCAA Championships.
"Last season was very disappointing for the entire team," said Ragan. "We played well early and simply were not able to sustain that level. We have to maintain a strong work ethic and continually find ways to come into events better prepared this season."
Following the Sonoma State Invitational, UC San Diego plays in four more tournaments during the fall - the Saint Martin's Invitational (Sept. 21-22) in Washington, the Western Washington Invitational (Sept. 24-25), the Dixie State Fall Regional Preview (Oct. 15-16) in Utah, and the Otter Invitational (Oct. 22-23).
About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles, and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country. The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in the summer of 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference. UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's pre-eminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent. A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarships. In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.
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