By Pavan Sagoo | Athlete Columnist

Pavan Sagoo at TPC Harding Park. (Courtesy of smcgaels.com)

It seems like just yesterday we were packing our bags, cleaning our clubs, and preparing for the first event of Spring in the desert. Where has the time gone? Our regular season ended over Spring Break, in which we played a total of 9 rounds in just 8 days. We started out this mini-marathon in the middle of Oregon, and I suppose you could say that the few days we spent at Eugene Country Club were definitely a step in the right direction for the team. A small step, but a step nonetheless.

Monday was a battle, and I am glad to say that it was, for the seniors at least, the last ever 36-hole day of college golf we will ever have to participate in. Our poor legs. I can assure you that those will not be missed by any of us! We arrived at Eugene just before 7 a.m., encased in as many layers as we could possibly wrap around our bodies, in a rather feeble attempt to combat the baltic 35 degrees outside. There was a slightly tense atmosphere around, as we have come to anticipate on one of these mornings. After all, what else would one expect from a herd of young- adults, unwillingly dragged out of bed before sunrise, forced to play not one, but two rounds of golf in the numbing temperatures of the Pacific Northwest? Not very much, to be honest. However, with that being said, there isn’t much that a good old breakfast can’t fix, right? Such is the tradition before a 36-hole day. The teams will slowly head to breakfast and proceed to inhale every last bit of food presented before them, fuelling up for the day ahead, I suppose. Or maybe, we just love pancakes. After filling our insides to the very brim, we rather gingerly waddled our way over to the driving range and got started with our pre-round warmup session. In these conditions especially, with every shot struck off center, a player’s hands undergo somewhat of a shock—an unbearable pain leaving absolutely zero sense of feeling or sensation in the fingertips. Luckily, there wasn’t much of that going on for us. Our warmup went rather well, and as a result, we played ourselves to within striking distance of the top five as the day came to an end.

We entered the second day with positive attitudes, knowing that although we didn’t have a great chance of winning, a solid finish was well within our reach. It wasn’t an easy day for us on the course, but we battled until the very end, ultimately coming away with a top-5 finish and beating both Arizona and Colorado State, who were both ranked ahead of us. There were without a doubt some positives to take from this finish, both individually, and as a team. Blake Hathcoat, one of the team’s sophomores, managed to shoot a team-low 69 in the final round on his way to a top-20 finish. In addition, I myself managed to overcome a somewhat lackluster start to the final round and finish the tournament inside the top 10. Although we didn’t have our best stuff, the result was something to build off of heading into The Goodwin.

After attempting to catch up on some schoolwork at the airport, we finally flew back from Eugene late on Tuesday, arriving back in the Bay Area just before midnight. There was a slight confusion with the hotel rooms, but after some tough negotiating by our coach, we were able to find somewhere to lay our heads for the night before we were back out on the golf course for our practice round at Harding Park the very next day. TPC Harding Park is always a course we thoroughly look forward to playing, and this time around was no exception. The superintendent and his staff had worked their magic and presented before us some of the most incredible playing conditions we had ever seen. The greens were firm, fast, and true. The fairways, perfect. On top of that, we could finally feel our hands! The sun was out, and life was good again, it seemed. It was a true privilege to have been able to participate in this year’s Goodwin.

Unlike the morning of The Duck Invitational, the mood was significantly different upon arriving at Harding. After all, we were only playing 18 holes, we were only wearing a single layer, and we could actually feel our hands. Our tee time was after midday, so there were unfortunately no pancakes waiting for us upon arrival this time! Instead, the scent of grilled burgers filled the air…consequently, as we warmed up on the range, there were perhaps one or two more smiles than what we had seen at 7AM at Eugene Country Club. It was a good start, to what we were hoping would be a great week.

We seemed to carry on the momentum we had gathered in Eugene into the first round, finishing the day with a flourish of birdies. Fellow senior, Perry, even managed to make an eagle on his final hole of the day after draining what seemed to be a mammoth-length putt from the front edge of the 9th green. Ultimately, we managed to battle our way to 7th place on the leaderboard, which is not so bad when you consider the 24-team field, full of highly skilled, highly ranked teams.

Day 2 came around somewhat quicker than expected. We finished our first round quite late on Thursday, and found ourselves back out on the course very early on Friday, teeing off at 7:30AM. As is most often the case, we entered this round with much optimism. It was yet another opportunity to move up the leaderboard and surpass some teams ranked ahead of us. In the slightly colder conditions, we struggled as a team to make any movement, and ended up finishing the day 2 spots worse than we had started. Perry, however, kept up his stellar play, shooting a second round 70 which left him firmly placed within the top-15 of the individual standings.

Saturday morning once again, came around rather quickly. The final day of the Goodwin had seemed so far away on the Friday evening we left campus for Oregon, and now it was here, so suddenly. We knew we had to play a solid round if we wanted to move up the leaderboard, and we went into the final round full of excitement…as always. It wasn’t to be, however. Although there were some bright spots throughout the final day, including a clutch final round of 70 from fellow senior, Connor, and an individual final placing of 20th from Perry, we slipped another two spots, and ended the tournament in 11th place. Now, although not a terrible result, it just wasn’t a result representative of the quality our team possesses. We need to do better.

Now we look ahead to the most crucial part of our year: the post-season. This is what we work towards day-in, day-out. We have specific goals in mind when we return to campus every September, two of which are to win the WCC Championship, and to make the NCAA Regionals. Both of these goals are firmly within our grasp, and continue to motivate us to work harder and smarter than ever, every single day leading up to the Conference Championship at Carlton Oaks, which begins on the 16th of this month. To be honest, we haven’t quite had the year we had expected to. Yes, we have won. We have also had a number of good finishes. In addition to that, we’ve been ranked inside the top-50 throughout the year, and have even crept into the 30’s. But we are capable of more. Much more. These next two events are crucial for us, and will provide yet another opportunity to showcase what we feel as though we are capable of as a team. It’s going to take a continuation of hard work, but that’s what we love to do. We love the process of trying to make ourselves “good enough,” and we will continue to do just that up until the time comes to compete in the WCC Championship.

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