The men’s golf team finished fourth out of 13 teams in the Sacramento State Invitational Monday and Tuesday at Valley Hi Country Club in Elk Grove.
Sac State, which won the invitational for two straight seasons prior to Tuesday, was without senior and eight-time Big Sky Golfer of the Week Aaron Beverly during the final seven holes of the first round. Beverly, who was the individual winner in last year’s Sacramento State Invitational, left the first round with neck pain after playing 11 holes and having the highest score on the team.
“It’s tough,” Sac State coach Kamden Brakel said. “He called me over because he was experiencing a lot of pain in his swing. The neck is very sensitive — it was extremely painful for him to swing and other guys on the team were doing pretty well.”
Sac State sophomore Wonje Choi shot a one-under 71, junior Zach Liberatore shot a 76 and seniors Robert Parden and Connor Day hit 74 and 75, respectively.
“Overall, I hit good shots when I needed to,” Choi said about the first round. “I made putts that helped me stay positive when I was doing bad.”
Choi, a transfer from San Diego State, finished the tournament in 10th place — which was the best individual performance on the team — after he followed his 71 in the first round with a 76 in the second round and a 74 in the third round. Choi had the fourth best average score on the short par-three and the third best score on long par-fives, but mistakes kept him from finishing in the top five.
“I hit two in the water yesterday on the back nine that cost me some shots and I hit it into the bunker twice on number five,” Choi said.
Beverly returned in the second round Monday to record two birdies and a 74 finish.
“I was just frustrated that I couldn’t help out the team,” Beverly said. “I was sitting, waiting for round two to start and I figured I might as well try as best as I could and help us in any type of way.”
Beverly finished second on the team in the second round behind Liberatore. After a six on the par-four sixth hole, Liberatore chipped away and recorded six birdies in the final 12 holes to finish with a 70 on the round.
“In the second round I felt like I was rolling the ball a lot better, playing a lot smarter and I wasn’t trying to do anything extra on the course,” Liberatore said.
After Sac State played the first two rounds Monday, the third round started Tuesday morning.
“Thirty-six holes is extremely tough when it is cold like that,” Day said. “It is just a long day and when the course is playing tough — it makes it seem like you are out here all day.”
After scoring a 75 and 76 in the first two rounds on the first day, Day had his best afternoon of the tournament by recording a team-low 72 and five birdies in the third round.
After a night of rest, Beverly recorded three birdies on the back nine, including the final two holes to finish the third round with a 73.
“Sometimes when (Beverly) doesn’t look his best, he finds a way to turn it around,” Day said. “He is the best putter I have ever seen.”
The Hornets improved their team score by a total of six shots after finishing seventh out of 12 teams in the first tournament of the year February in Rancho Santa Fe.
“With (Beverly) out, some guys had to step up,” Brakel said. “It’s good to build that confidence going into the next tournament and to see them playing well.”
Sac State travels next to Laredo, Texas to participate in the Border Olympics against 19 schools Friday and Saturday. Beverly finished second in the tournament last season.