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The Cal Poly men’s golf team finished eighth in a shortened Big West Conference Men’s Golf Championship on Tuesday to complete a tough year for the Mustangs.
Cal Poly leaped to sixth place after the first round, but fell to eighth Monday in the nine-team tournament. The final round was cancelled due to disruptive winds Tuesday which gave Cal State Fullerton the Big West crown and left the Mustangs no opportunity for a comeback.
“It was really disappointing, because it would have been a chance to catch up with the field,” freshman Justin De Los Santos said.
UC Davis trailed the Titans by two strokes after the final round, while UC Riverside finished a school-best third place just eight strokes back from champion Cal State Fullerton. Cal Poly trailed first place by 21 strokes once the wind arrived.
Cal Poly’s poor performance in the tournament was representative of the struggles the team has faced this season. The Mustangs finished in the top three in just one tournament, which came in September, and haven’t seen a top-five finish since.
“We’re a young team,” De Los Santos said. “This year was a learning experience. We now have time to improve.”
Time is on the Mustangs’ side. Cal Poly’s roster is led by sophomore Cam Price and De Los Santos.
Price led the team in strokes average on the season with 73.2 strokes per round, and tied for 14th place with 147 total strokes in the Big West Conference Tournament.
Price’s youthful counterpart De Los Santos tied for 32nd with 152 total strokes in the tournament while averaging 73.3 strokes on the season.
The freshman said he is proud of his performance this year, but prefers to praise Price — his mentor and the leader of the team.
“He’s had a good year,” De los Santos said. “He’s a good person to look up to, sort of like a mentor.”
However, the youngsters are not alone.
Eight of the Mustangs’ 11 players are underclassmen, meaning just two players have played their last tournament at Cal Poly. Johnny Castles will be the only senior next season. He finished second for the Mustangs and in 19th overall with a 149 stroke total.
Two other players placed in the top-40 for the Mustangs. Sophomore Cole Nygren tied with De Los Santos for 32nd while freshman Mitch Martin earned his way into Cal Poly’s top-five with a 37th-place finish overall.
No year can be described as a forgotten year, but the Mustangs say this is the closest it gets, De Los Santos said.
The young Cal Poly team is looking to the future and was aware that this season would not be the most likely season for national glory. Yet the players are not just students in the classroom, but their education on the course will turn the scholars into conference contenders with the club, De Los Santos said.
Cal State Fullerton has won the last two conference tournaments, cementing the program as the one to beat for next season. But De Los Santos said the Mustangs are ready to dethrone the Titans.
“They’re losing their top two guys,” he said. “The entire Big West is vulnerable. Once we get things together we can really be a powerhouse.”