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USC Men's Golf Takes On Tough N.I.T. Field In Arizona

Mar 19, 2021

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The USC men's golf team, under first-year head coach J.T. Higgins, continues its 2021 season at the N.I.T., Saturday and Sunday (March 20-21), at the Catalina Course at Omni Nation Tucson.
 
The Tournament
The field this weekend includes Arizona, USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Illinois, Colorado State, Houston, Iowa State, Utah, San Diego, UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming and Miami.
 
Tee times for the 36-hole first day begin at 7 a.m. (MT) each day. Results will be available at Golfstat.com.
 
The Trojans will employ its third different starting lineup in their fifth tournament, consisting of seniors Kaito Onishi and Leon D'Souza, sophomore Tyler Guo and freshmen Shane Ffrench and Krando Nishiba (in his collegiate debut). Junior Cameron Henry will play individually.
 
So Far
The Trojans finished sixth at the season-opening 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 Trojans, behind career-best performances from sophomore Tyler Guo and Ffrench, battled one of the top teams in the country to the wire at the Amer Ari Invitational at the Hapuna G.C. in Waimea, Hawai'i, ultimately finishing a season-best second behind Arizona State on Feb. 4. The Trojans combined for a 25-under 839 (280-278-281), finishing 12 shots back of the Sun Devils.
 
USC finished 14th at The Prestige in the 24-team event, led by Leon D'Souza's tie for 36th at 5-over and then tied for eighth at the Lamkin San Diego Classic, led by Onishi's 16th at 2-over 218.
 
Henry leads the team in stroke average at 72.89 with a pair of top 16 finishes while Ffrench is second at 73.00. Henry and Ffrench both have a team-best five rounds of par or better. Guo and D'Souza lead the team with a pair of rounds in the 60s. Onishi also has two top 20 finishes.
 
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.