Gauchos Hang on to Win 2017 Big West Golf Championship, Advance to NCAA Tournament

The UCSB men's golf team was able to #RaiseTheCup as it won the 2017 Big West Conference championship. (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
The UCSB men's golf team was able to #RaiseTheCup as it won the 2017 Big West Conference championship. (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Sophomore Nick Swanson drained a short putt to make par on the 18th hole of the final round of the Big West Conference men's golf championship on Wednesday at Sandpiper Golf Course to help UC Santa Barbara win its first conference title since 1998.

The Gauchos edged Cal State Northridge by one shot, 852 (-12) to 853 (-11), to earn their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1999.

"I am so happy that this group was able to give UCSB its first Big West golf championship in almost 20 years," said head coach Steve Lass. "This has been a great year either way, but winning the conference is fitting and makes it even better."

CSUN's top player and the individual medalist at the tournament, Felix Mory, made his par putt on the 18th from about six feet out. If Swanson had not made his the Gauchos and Matadors would have been headed to a playoff with all five players from each team participating and teeing off from the 18th hole. 

"I didn't have any idea what our situation was," Swanson said. "I didn't realize that we only had a one-shot lead when I was putting for birdie on the 18th and I'm glad I didn't know. Now, I'm just happy that I saved par."

Mory led from start-to-finish and won the tournament at 10-under par, four shots ahead of Long Beach State's Joe Fryer, five ahead of Swanson and six ahead of UCSB's Zach Smith.

"Once again, we had good balance and that was huge for us," Lass said. "I'm really glad that on a day when Brandon (Bauman) wasn't at his best that Willy (Moffly) and Brett (Bennett) were solid."

Bauman, who won the league tournament in 2016, finished tied for 15th at even par, but his final round 77 was the Gauchos' 'throw out' score. Moffly and Bennett each shot 1-over par 73s on Wednesday and both scores factored into the final equation.

UCSB began the round with a six-shot lead over Cal Poly and an eight-shot advantage over CSUN and Long Beach State. Cal Poly finished at 9-under par, three shots off the pace and Long Beach was fourth with a 3-under score. The Gauchos still led by five shots late in the final round before the Matadors made their charge.

"It will be exciting to go back to an NCAA Regional," Lass said. "This will be the fourth time I've taken a team, but it's been a long time and I really look forward to this group getting that experience."

Lass has been UCSB's head coach since the 1993-94 school year. He previously took teams to the NCAA Tournament in 1994, 1998 and 1999.

The 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships selections announcement will be Thursday, May 4 at 9 a.m., on Golf Channel and streamed live on the Golf Channel website.  

Eighty-one teams and 45 individuals will be selected to compete in the six NCAA Men's Regional Championship sites, May 15-17 (13 teams and 10 individuals at three regionals and 14 teams and five individuals at three regionals). The six NCAA regional sites are Stanford Golf Course in Stanford, Calif., University of Texas Golf Club in Austin, Texas, Washington National Golf Club in Auburn, Wash., Kampen Course in West Lafayette, Ind., University Club in Baton Rouge, La., and The Grove in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Competition at all six sites will be held May 15-17.
Thirty teams and six individuals will advance from regional sites to the national championships to be played May 26-31 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.