USC Men's Golf Back In Action At Amer Ari Invitational
The USC men's golf team, under first-year head coach J.T. Higgins, will play its second event of the 2021 season at the 30th Amer Ari Invitational, Tuesday through Thursday (Feb. 2-4), at the Hapuna G.C. in Kamulea, Hawai'i.
The nine-team tournament will use the Hapuna Golf Course's 6875-yard, 72-par venue, featuring Arizona State, Georgia Tech, Hawai'i, Hawai'i-Hilo, Oregon State, Pepperdine, San Jose State, USC and Washington. Results will available at Golfstat.com.
The Trojans, who will tee off at 1 p.m. PT today, will employ the same starting lineup as in their season debut last week, consisting of seniors Kaito Onishi and Leon D'Souza, junior Cameron Henry, sophomore Tyler Guo and freshman Shane Ffrench.
USC is a two-time champion of the tournament with titles in 2009 and 2016. USC has had three players finish first. Justin Suh won the event in 2018 while Jeffrey Kang captured first in 2012. Rico Hoey tied for first in 2017 but fell in a three-way playoff.
Last season, among 20 teams, USC finished 12th at the event, led by D'Souza's tie for 39th at 3-under 213 at Waikoloa.
The Trojans finished sixth at the Southwestern Invitational in their first action of the season at 36-over 900 (301-296-303). For the second consecutive season, junior Cameron Henry kicked off his campaign with a top 20 finish, tying for 15th at 6-over 222 (77-72-73). Senior Kaito Onishi tied for 20th at 8-over 224 (77-74-73) while freshman Shane Ffrench tied for 27th at 10-over 226 (70-74-82).
The New Staff
Higgins took over as USC's head coach on Aug. 14, 2020, replacing Chris Zambri, and will be joined on the course by first-year assistant coach Matt Walton, hired Nov. 4.
Higgins joined USC already a GCAA Hall of Fame coach following 19 seasons at Texas A&M (2002-20) and four at New Mexico (1998-01). He guided the Texas A&M men's team to an NCAA championship (2009) and 17 NCAA appearances during his 19 years there and has been named Conference Coach of the Year three times and Region/District Coach of the Year four times.
Higgins teams earned a school-record 12 consecutive NCAA Regional berths from 2003 to 2014. The Aggies posted 12 Top 5 finishes in NCAA Regional play, including Regional championships in 2018 and 2019, and had 10 Top 15 finishes at the NCAA Championships, including tied for fifth in 2018 and 2019. A&M finished in the Top 20 national ranking 12 times under Higgins and twice was in the nation's Top 5 in scoring rating. His teams posted the 15 lowest season scoring averages in school history.
Walton is a collegiate All-American with Division I coaching experience to complement a broad array of work with juniors and amateurs. He came to USC after one season as the men's golf assistant coach at Wichita State (2019-20) in which the Shockers won one regular-season event (NMSU/Herb Wimberly Invitational), posted one individual title and combined for another two individual top 10 finishes in the Covid-shortened season.
Before joining Wichita State, Walton served as lead coach at Gary Gilchrist Golf Academy in Orlando, Fla., providing comprehensive training for some of the nation's top junior golfers. Prior to that he worked as an assistant professional for several years in Indiana.
The 2021 Trojans
USC's 2021 squad features four seniors in graduate Kyle Suppa, fourth-year seniors Kaito Onishi and Issei Tanabe and second-year Trojan Leon D'Souza. Fellow returning Trojans include junior Cameron Henry and sophomore Tyler Guo. New to the team this season are freshmen Shane Ffrench, Ethan Chung and Krando Nishiba.
Gone from the squad are Yuxin Lin, who transferred to Florida late in 2020, and Charlie Reiter, who transferred out of USC after the 2019 fall season.
D'Souza is USC's leading returning golfer in terms of stroke average (70.67) and rounds in the 60s (eight). He posted three top 4 finishes, including his second at the Southwestern Invitational at 11-under, a tie for second at the Bill Cullum Invitational at 13-under and a fourth at The Prestige at 10-under.
D'Souza joined Tanabe, Suppa and Guo with team-highs of 18 rounds in the shortened season. Tanabe finished second in stroke average (72.33) to go with five rounds in the 60s. He closed the season with a season-best tie for ninth at the Southern Highlands Invitational at 2-under to go with two other top 30 finishes.
Onishi, USC's lone All-American on the squad (an honor earned as a 2019 sophomore), played just 12 rounds last year, highlighted by a tie for third at the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate, which saw his lone round in the 60s. He posted a stroke average of 73.00
Suppa had two rounds in the 60s as a true senior, his season highlighted by a tie for 22nd at The Prestige.
Henry opened his junior season with a 68 en route to a season-best tie for 13th at the Mea Lanakila Individual and closed with a 25th at the Southern Highlands Invitational at 3-over. Guo had two rounds in the 60s and turned in a season-best tie for 17th at The Prestige.