The UC Davis men’s golf team is used to being the underdog. It’s used to chasing the country’s top teams from behind.
After the Aggies‘ most recent tournament, those days may be over.
In a field that featured five of the nation’s top 25 teams and 10 of the top 50, UC Davis beat them all on Tuesday, shooting an 871 to finish in second place behind unranked TCU (861) at the Prestige at the PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
With the finish, the team saw its national ranking vault from No. 40 in Golfweek to No. XX, and it jumped to No. 13 in Golfstat.
“It’s a tribute to how our guys prepare and compete,” head coach Cy Williams said. “But we’re going to have to work even harder now because when your ranking gets that high, you become the hunted and no longer the hunter.“
Led by senior Nick Pistacchio, the team placed higher at the event than No. 4 Washington, No. 12 Stanford, No. 17 Michigan State, No. 21 California and No. 25 Peppedine, along with the five other top 50 teams in competition.
Pistacchio overcame windy conditions on Monday to open with a 4-under 68, and tied TCU’s John de Beer as the tournament’s top individual finisher with a 6-under 210.
“His first-round performance – not only was it amazing, but the conditions were so hard out there,” Williams said. “It kept our team in it. Without that score, our team is out of it. From a team standpoint, it was a huge. From an individual standpoint, it was just phenomenal.“
Sophomore Austin Graham had the worst and best rounds of his career. He opened the tournament with a 14-over 86, but then rebounded to fire a school-record 9-under 63 in the second round and a 4-under 68 to finish tied for fifth overall.
“I’ve had numerous people come up to me and ask how you go [from an] 82 [to a] 63,” Williams said. “It’s just unheard of, so don’t ask because I don’t know.“
Graham’s 63 surpassed the 64 shot by teammate Brent Booth, who held the record for all of one week.
“It was a tour performance,” Williams said. “If there was a PGA Tour that day, it would have been top three. There wouldn’t have been many pros that would have been able to beat him. I promise you that.“
As if defeating some of the nation’s top teams didn’t attest to the team’s ability, Williams said he thinks his team has yet to scratch the surface.
“We’re not at the top of our game, and we’ll improve on those things that we can get better at,” Williams said. “They worked hard and deserved what they accomplished. Now, time to get better.“
MICHAEL GEHLKEN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org