USC Men's Golf Opens Postseason At Pac-12 Championships In Santa Rosa
The USC men's golf team, under first-year head coach J.T. Higgins and led this year by senior Kaito Onishi, begins the postseason Monday with the 2021 Pac-12 Championships, set at the Mayacama G.C. in Santa Rosa, Calif.
2021 Pac-12 Championships Information
The 2021 Pac-12 Championships, in its traditional six play, five count format, kicks off Monday with 36 holes with pairings beginning at 7 a.m. Tuesday's round starts at 10 a.m. and the final round Wednesday starts at 7:30 a.m.
USC is paired with Colorado and Washington State on Monday, their first group off at 8:06 a.m. Results will be available at Golfstat.com.
The Trojan lineup remains the same for the second tournament in a row, featuring seniors Kaito Onishi, Kyle Suppa and Leon D'Souza, junior Cameron Henry, sophomore Tyler Guo and freshmen Shane Ffrench.
USC'S HISTORY AT THE PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Trojans have won a conference-best 20 Pac-12 titles, most recently winning the 2018 crown – its first since 2011 -- while hosting at Rolling Hills C.C. Justin Suh claimed the Trojans' first individual crown since the same year – both he and the Trojans winning by four strokes. The Trojan squad won at 31-under 1389 (347-340-351-351) while Suh won his USC record fifth title of the season at 16-under 268 (68-64-65-71) … Current senior Kaito Onishi tied for 13th in the 2018 title win while fellow senior Kyle Suppa played as a true sophomore and posted two counting rounds … In the most recent Pac-12 Championships, USC finished seventh in 2019 while Suh took fourth at 4-under.
USC's previous two wins was a 2011 playoff win and a dominating 36-stroke win in 2007. USC came close in 2008 to back-to-back wins (like they did in 2001 and 2002), but fell in a playoff to ASU ... USC finished third in 2012 and tied for third in 2017. Troy claimed the crown 15 times between 1962 and 1986 ... USC boasts 22 individual champions including Suh in 2018 as well current PGA player Martin Trainer in 2011, who outlasted Oregon State's Alex Moore during a seven-hole playoff for the win. Jamie Lovemark won in 2007, which ended a drought that dated back to Sam Randolph's tie for first in 1983 ... USC has also earned nine Pac-12 Golfer of the Year honors, including Suh in 2018 and its previous winner, Matt Giles in 2009, as well as Lovemark's 2007 distinction and Kevin Stadler's in 2002 ... Sherman Finger's three wins in 1964-65-66 are tied for the Pac-12's most individual conference titles (with ASU's Paul Casey in 1998-99-2000)… Jamie Lovemark's 2007 title-winning 269 is USC's lowest 72-hole score at the Pac-12s, which led the Trojans to their lowest team score ever at the Pac-12s, a 51-under 1389 (358-342-345-344).
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. Troy then took ninth at the N.I.T., led again by Onishi, who posted a season-best tie for ninth at 10-under 206 (70-68-68), his second best 54-hole score as a Trojan.
Onishi again led USC at The Goodwin, tying for fourth while USC tied for 13th. He extended his streak of consecutive rounds in the 60s to five while posting his fifth top 20 in six starts. Leon D'Souza tied for 21st at the Western Intercollegiate to lead USC, which took eighth.
Onishi leads the team in stroke average at 71.76 while Ffrench is second (72.76) and Henry third (73.33). Onishi has a team-best 11 rounds of par or better while Ffrench has nine and Henry has seven. Onishi has a team-best 10 rounds under par while Ffrench has six.
Onishi has a team-high six rounds in the 60s while Guo and D'Souza have two each. Onishi's streak of five straight rounds in the 60s is his longest since doing the same as a freshman.
Onishi has a team-best two top 10 finishes and five top 20 finishes while Henry has two top 20s.
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 three seniors in graduate Kyle Suppa, fourth-year senior Kaito Onishi 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 Issei 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.