Men’s golf takes second at Big Sky championship; hopes for improvement next season

Aaron Asmus

The Sacramento State men’s golf team were disappointed in their second place finish in the Big Sky Conference Championship, but are confident in the experience they gained this season to carry over into next year.

The Hornets became a new team in the spring semester and put themselves in a position to win tournaments at nearly every event they played. They finished the spring with two tournament wins, three second-place finishes and one third-place finish. They were not able to get past the excellent play of the University of Idaho, who were ranked as a top team in the country with some of the best players in the conference.

“I’m proud of how we played,” said Sac State sophomore Aaron Beverly. “Idaho was just better over those three days.”

Beverly was the player for the Hornets who took the biggest jump from the fall to spring semester. After not being able to crack the top 30 individually during the fall, he came back strong with four top-10 finishes, a tournament win and only ranked outside the top 20 in one tournament.

Beverly knew he turned a corner at the Folino Invitational after his first round of play. The last time he had played the course, he shot a first-round 83. This year, he shot a first-round 68.

“That course had my number before,” Beverly said. “I really saw all the hard work I had been putting in starting to pay off.”

At conference, Beverly improved his scoring in each successive round and ended the tournament shooting 74-73-70-217 and finished tied for fifth place.

Junior Taylor Knoll was another Hornets player who significantly picked up his play during the spring semester. After only one finish inside the top 20 during the fall semester, he finished the seven spring events with three top-10 finishes, a tournament win, and his lowest finish being tied for 26th at the Sacramento State Invitational.

“Getting the first win of my college career at the Fullerton event was [my] personal highlight,” Knoll said. “It’s something I always dreamed of doing.”

The team will say goodbye to seniors Luke Kristo and Riley Hayfield, both of whom were constant performers in the lineup this season.

Kristo put together a successful senior season and was one of the only guys who had scored well in tournaments throughout the whole season and not just during the spring semester. Kristo ended the season with a 72.50 individual round average, three top 10 finishes and a tournament win at the Sacramento State Invitational.

Kristo also set some Sac State records and made his way into several different top 10 categories as an individual golfer. He is currently tied for the sixth and 12th lowest round scores with a 66 and 67, respectively. His performance of shooting a 208 at the Sacramento State Invitational was the fourth-lowest 54-hole score in school history.

For Hayfield, the 2014-2015 season was his first year with the team in which he was consistently in the lineup and able to perform. He finished the year with a 74.77 individual round average. His best finish of the season came at the El Macero Classic where he finished tied for 12th after shooting a 78-69-74-221 for the tournament.

At the Big Sky Championship, Hayfield started out strong and was tied for the individual lead after round one with a score of 72. He was not able to continue that momentum into the following two days, in which he shot an 80 and 81 respectively and finished tied for 27th.

Moving forward, the Hornets will look to have an even better season next year with a more experienced roster that is used to winning tournaments, as well as the return of Owen Taylor after a redshirt season. Freshman Zach Liberatore, after a strong showing of filling in for the injured Robert Parden at conference, also looks to be someone who will contribute in a big way for the Hornets next season.

“Looking at what Zach did in conference, the spring that Aaron had and the year that Taylor put together, getting all that back will make a very successful year next year,” said coach Christopher Hall. “I wouldn’t doubt we’ll be top 60 or top 70 in the country next year for sure.”