ASU's Scott Pinckney Readies For Pac-10 Championship
- Championship Central
By Brian Price
Has this year's Arizona State men's golf team has lived up to expectations, so far?
"Definitely not," says Sun Devils senior, Scott Pinckney. "Coming into this year, with a team comprised mainly of [upperclassmen], we expected things to be different."
After a tremendous 2009 campaign, the Sun Devils find themselves at No. 27 in the country, looking up at conferences foes No. 3 UCLA, No. 20 Stanford, No. 18 Cal and No. 21 USC.
Pinckney thinks that there's been a lack of focus and laments that he and his teammates need to regroup in order to go out on top.
"Can we be better? Yes, of course," he said. "Did 'senioritis' set in a little bit? Yes. But with all that in mind, we believe our best golf is yet to come."
Indeed the Sun Devils nine-man roster consists of five seniors, all of whom are looking to end their careers on a high note.
"If we win any of the next three tournaments, we've taken a mediocre season and made it great," Pinckney said.
The Pac-10 Championship will offer the Sun Devils a chance for redemption. In addition, the Sun Devils will have their shot at regionals, and possibly the NCAA Championship. The Sun Devils, under head coach Randy Lein, have made eight consecutive NCAA appearances and 18 overall during Lein's 19 years at ASU.
Under pressure, Pinckney is a well-seasoned player. It was his birdie in last year's Southeast regional tournament in Atlanta that sent ASU to the NCAA Championship. That clutch shot was part of a breakout junior year for him.
However, after the fall season of his senior year, his game still wasn't where he wanted it to be. "I had to step away from my comfort zone at ASU and refocus," he said.
Pinckney returned to his family home in Utah and reunited with his former coach, PGA pro and Kinetic Golf Academy director of instruction Tim Suzor, to get back to basics.
"We implemented a weight program. We worked really hard over the three winter months and made some swing changes," said Pinckney. "I hit the gym hard and [came into the spring] with 15 pounds of additional muscle and increased flexibility."
Pinckney also notes that the increased mass led to stability in his shot. "The extra weight helped stabilize my lower body during my swing," he said. "It meant my club would rotate less and, specifically, at the top of the swing, I [worked on] getting a little bit of a squat going so the club could fall into a better position and then I'd have the strength to stabilize and maintain my posture during impact."
Those changes seem to have since paid off in a major way.
He's had three top-10 finishes in 2011 spring tournaments and has never finished outside of the top-15. On March 1 at the USC Collegiate Invitational, he shot a career best 4-under-par for the three-round tournament.
Despite these accomplishments, the 2011 Sun Devils, once a perennial favorite to win the Pac-10, have seen their struggles lead to a middle-of-the-pack conference standing.
A weaker team would have crumbled by now. But ASU, built on a foundation of tight friendships, is standing tough in the face of adversity.
"Coming to ASU, one of the things [a player] can expect from [head coach Randy Lein], is that he'll cultivate a very close-knit team," Pinckney said. "That's where a lot of our success stems from. He makes sure to emphasize friendship on the team. We all get along."
Being a tight-knit group means that players don't hesitate when it's to time to speak up.
"We're not afraid to get on each other's [case]," Pinckney said. "We support one another, which means, as much as cheering somebody on, also telling them when it's time to kick it up and get into gear. We can do that without anybody getting mad because we are such a close group."
ASU boasts a proud lineage of golfers, highlighted by three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson. Pinckney is proud to be part of the Sun Devil brotherhood.
"Being a part of the ASU golfing tradition is something special. ASU has the most players on tour, which says a lot about the program and university," Pinckney said. "I'm always proud to say I'm a Sun Devil."
Pinckney and his Sun Devils will be looking to add another noteworthy chapter to ASU history starting April 29, when the Pac-10 Champions begins at Stanford.