UA finishes invitational in ninth place

The Arizona men’s golf team finished Saturday in ninth place at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational in Tempe.

Arizona played three rounds in two days and shot an overall 866 (+26). For the second time this season, Arizona coach Jim Anderson installed four freshmen into the starting lineup and recovered from the horrific performance in Palo Alto, Calif., from last weekend.

“We showed a lot of inexperience and immaturity, but we finally started to come together as a team, especially in the second round,” Anderson said. “We played four freshmen, and it’s tough with a lineup like that, but we came together, and I was pleased with our guys.”

The first day was extremely different from the road trip to The Goodwin, and Arizona desperately needed to play solid golf, as the Wildcats are nearing the Pac-12 Championships at the end of April.

The Wildcats were lead by freshman George Cunningham, who finished tied for seventh after the opening day and was the only Wildcat to place in the top 20.

Cunningham has been the leader of this young Wildcat squad and needed to show that he could compete amongst the cream of the crop in the Pac-12 Conference.

Cunningham had to deal with the hype around talented ASU junior Jon Rahm headed into the tournament, considering Rahm is the reigning Thunderbird Invitational winner. Rahm even set a school and tournament record for final score recorded over 54 holes by shooting 21-under-par in 2014.

Another Sun Devil that stood in the way of Cunningham winning the event was junior Max Rottluff, who finished in second place behind Rahm at the Duck Inviational in Eugene, Ore.

Cunningham carded a 71 on the first round and a 68 on the second round, which boosted the freshman into the top 10 (-1). The other freshmen battled early after Max Donohue and Peter Koo carded a score of 147 strokes (+7) and tied for 52nd place.

Senior Brenden Redfern finished in 58th place at 148 strokes (+8) after day one. The second day and final round of the Thunderbird Invitational was all about Donohue, as the freshman carded a 68 (-2) despite the poor opening round of 79.

Donohue would go on to finish with his best overall tournament score as a Wildcat with 215 strokes (+5). He tied with Cunningham in 28th place after Cunningham shot 76 (+6) on Saturday.

“I was really happy for Max, and for him to go out and post two rounds of 68 really shows how talented he is,” Anderson said. “He works just as hard as anyone else, so this was a solid tournament for Max.”

Redfern shot his best personal score of the tournament by shooting even-par. The first day of the tournament, however, hurt the senior on the individual leader board, and he placed 43rd overall at 8-over-par.

Koo and Jacob Kreuz would stay above par as they both shot 8-over-par in the final round. Koo finished with 225 total strokes (+15) and ended the tournament in 68th place, while Kreuz finished in 59th place after shooting 222 (+12).

ASU would go on to finish the tournament by defending their crown as Thunderbird Invitational victors, with the first- and second-place finishers in Rahm (-15) and Rottluff (-14).

Anderson said his team has made changes in the lineup many times this season that should help the Wildcats in the long term.

“We looked up at the scoreboard, and we knew we’re better than ninth place,” Anderson said, “but that’s the price we have to pay when playing four freshmen in the starting lineup.”

The Wildcats will travel to Santa Cruz, Calif., to compete in the Western Intercollegiate on Saturday and Sunday.


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