USC Men's Golf Set For NCAA Tallahassee Regional
The USC men's golf team, under first-year head coach J.T. Higgins and led this year by seniors Leon D'Souza and Kyle Suppa, return to NCAA action this week at the Tallahassee Regional at Seminole Legacy Club, Monday through Wednesday (May 17-19).
Six 54-hole regional tournaments will be conducted next week. Thirteen teams and 10 individuals not on those teams will compete at each of three regionals while the other three regionals will have 14 teams and five individuals not on those teams. The low five teams and the low individual not on those teams from each regional will advance to the finals.
USC's region includes host Florida State as the top seed, followed in seed order by Georgia, Liberty, LSU, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, TCU, Indiana, Kansas, USC, Ohio State, Davidson, Florida A&M and LIU.
The Trojans, a No. 10 seed, will tee off with No. 11 seed Ohio State and No. 12 seed Davidson beginning at 9:55 a.m. ET on Monday. Results will be available at Golfstat.com.
The Trojans, looking to return to the NCAA finals after last appearing in 2019, will start seniors Kyle Suppa and Leon D'Souza, junior Cameron Henry, sophomore Tyler Guo and freshman Shane Ffrench. Freshman Krando Nishiba is available as a sub.
If USC, one of eight Pac-12 teams competing in regionals, advances out of Tallahassee, it will advance to nationals held May 28-June 2 at Grayhawk G.C. in Scottsdale, Ariz.
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.
At the Pac-12 Championships, USC finished eighth. Ffrench and D'Souza tied for 20th to lead Troy while Onishi tied for 22nd.
Onishi leads the team in stroke average at 71.68 while Ffrench is second (72.48) and D'Souza third (73.32). Onishi has a team-best 14 rounds of par or better while Ffrench has 12 and Henry has seven. Onishi has a team-best 13 rounds under par while Ffrench has nine. Onishi has a team-high seven rounds in the 60s while D'Souza has four, Guo has two.
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.