EL CAJON, Calif. The Army golf team played its best round of the tournament on the final day and finished tied for 15th, ahead of Navy, as the first Sycuan Collegiate Invitational wrapped up at the Willow Glen Course near San Diego, Calif.
Army shot a 305 during the third round and concluded the tournament, and the fall season, with a three-round total of 927, seven strokes ahead of Navy and one behind Air Force.
The Black Knights opened the tournament with a 310, shot a 312 in the second round and finished tied with Wyoming at the par-72, 6,687-yard Willow Glen Course in their toughest competition of the fall slate. The 17-team field was one of the deepest Army has competed against and the gusting winds and muggy weather over the course of two days made birdies hard to come by.
Wichita State won the tournament with an 884, followed by the host school, San Diego State (890). Missouri (899), California Polytechnic (900), New Mexico State (900), California Riverside (903), Denver (904), Fresno State (905) and Texas El-Paso (915) rounded out the top-10. Air Force concluded play with a +62, 926, one stroke ahead of Army while Navy finished at +70, 934.
“Today was a good stepping stone,” Army head coach Jimmy Ray Clevenger said. “We needed to beat a few teams to get our confidence up and know we can compete on their level. This was a half-won competition. We wanted to have a chance at Air Force and we only lost by a stroke. We had the opportunity to nip them and just aren’t getting it done. Beating Navy was a good morale booster for us.”
Ryan Spears of Wichita State won the event with a one-under 215, two strokes better than Nick Paez of California Riverside.
Army freshman Matt Krembel wrapped up his stellar fall with a one-under-par 71 and finished in a tie for seventh. Krembel shot a 76 and 75 in the first two rounds and then battled to his third top-10 finish with a total score of six-over.
Sam Walenz rebounded from a first-round 80 to shoot 76-78 over the final two rounds to finish at 234, in a tie for 67th. Patrick Beverly opened with a one-over 73 and wrapped up play at 239, in a tie with teammate Joey Cave, who is from El Cajon, Calif. Cave was consistent in the winds that at times gusted to 45 miles per hour with rounds of 81-80-78. Mark Garrison improved each round with 18s of 84-81-78243 and was 93rd.
“This was a good ending for the fall,” Clevenger said. “I saw a lot of growth in the team the last two tournaments and I didn’t see that in the beginning of the fall and that was to be expected. We have a long way to go, but we are on the right road. We just need guys to continue to gain confidence within themselves and believe they can play with the good teams and put up good scores.”
Army’s is idle until February when the team returns to San Diego to begin its spring season at the Carlton Oaks Collegiate Feb. 18-19.
“Right now, we need to sit back, look at our lineup and get it in a little bit better position,” Clevenger said. “We have to put the guys out there who are ready to go.”
Tournament Notes: Army had a rough start on its trip to San Diego. The team was originally scheduled to lave JFK Airport at 9:30 a.m. but did not depart until after 5 p.m. ... The Black Knights were surrounded by the wildfires plaguing California that have forced the evacuation of more than 300,000 people. Each day on the way to the course, the team could see the fires burning in every direction ... the fires also played havoc with cell phone reception, making it a challenge to find reception.