Lass, Bennett Earn Top Big West Honors, Three Gauchos Named to First Team

Steve Lass was named 2017 Big West Coach of the Year on Wednesday. In addition, Brett Bennett was named Freshman of the Year and three Gauchos earned First Team All-Big West recognition.
Steve Lass was named 2017 Big West Coach of the Year on Wednesday. In addition, Brett Bennett was named Freshman of the Year and three Gauchos earned First Team All-Big West recognition.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Steve Lass was named Big West Coach of the Year, Brett Bennett was named Big West Freshman of the Year and a trio of UC Santa Barbara golfers were named First Team All-Big West, the league announced its men's golf awards on Wednesday.

Lass, in his 24th season at UCSB, guided the Gauchos to their first league championship since 1998 and their first NCAA appearance since 1999. His team set a school record by winning five tournaments during the 2016-17 season, including three in a row to close out the regular campaign.

"I'm honored that my colleagues in the Big West have given me this recognition," Lass said. "This is more a result of the level at which our team has played this season than of anything I did, but I am pleased."

Lass last won the league's coach of the year award in 1998. 

As a freshman, Bennett competed in eight of the Gauchos' 11 tournaments this season and placed in the top 10 in four of those events, which included medalist honors at a dual match with Yale. He also tied for third at the Pro Compression Invitational after carding 210 at the three-round event. He finished tied for 17th at last week's Big Weest Conference Men's Golf Championship with a three-round total of 1-over 217.  The Huntington Beach, Calif., native enters next week's NCAA Stanford Regional sporting a 72.6 stroke average, which ranks fourth on the Gauchos team. Bennett, who was also named Second Team All-Big West, is the second Gaucho in three years to receive the freshman of the year award, as Zach Smith picked up the honor in 2015. 

In addition to the honors handed out to Lass and Bennett, a trio of UCSB players were named First Team All-Big West.

Juniors Zach Smith and Brandon Bauman, and sophomore Nick Swanson were all first-teamers.

Smith entners the postseason as the team's leader in stroke average at 71.85 per round. He has had six top-10 finishes, including four in a row, and he was the medalist at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic when he shot a 10-under par 206. He also finished second at the Folino Invitational and closed the season with back-to-back fourth-place finishes at the Cal Poly Shootout and the Big West Championship.

Bauman, the 2016 Big West Player of the Year, is averaging 72.03 strokes per round. He has five top-10 finishes this season, including a second-place finish at the Sacramento State Intercollegiate and third-place finishes at the Bill Cullum Invitational and Wyoming Cowboy Classic. 

Swanson, who has played in eight tournaments, is averaging 72.05 shots per round. He had the best score in UCSB's match with Yale. Overall, Swanson had five top-10 finishes and had the team's best performance at the Big West Championship when he finished third with a 5-under par 211.

"I'm proud of our guys for the year they've had," Lass said. "To have four of our five starters honored is a really impressive thing and they are all very deserving."

Lass and the four Big West honorees will lead UCSB into the NCAA's Stanford Regional on Monday-Wednesday, May 15-17.