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Aztecs fail to podium in MW tourney

Senior+Nahum+Mendoza+III+with+a+follow+through+off+a+tee+shot.
Senior Nahum Mendoza III with a follow through off a tee shot.

Senior Nahum Mendoza III with a follow through off a tee shot.

Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan, SDSU Athletics

Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan, SDSU Athletics

Senior Nahum Mendoza III with a follow through off a tee shot.

by Joe Faria, Staff Writer

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After three long days of competition on the greens, San Diego State men’s golf came in fourth with a combined score of 15-under par at the 2017 Mountain West Championships in Tucson, Arizona. Senior Gunn Yang was the top individual Aztec performer, as he finished in a three-way tie for third (-7).

SDSU came in ranked 36th nationally according to Golfstat and was the No. 2 seed in the tournament. UNLV, ranked 18th nationally, was the No. 1 seed.

The Aztecs were looking to claim their fourth conference title in school history. In the 18-year existence of the MW, their three victories came in 2011, 2012 and 2015. They have also placed second seven times, fourth on four occasions, fifth twice and seventh once.

The men on the Mesa started day one paired with UNLV playing on the 54-hole Catalina Course at the OMNI Tucson National Golf Club.

The Aztecs finished in a tie for first (-9) with Boise State and had four of their five starters finish the day in the top-10. Yang led the way by placing fourth and shooting a 3-under par. He also recorded his first tournament hole-in-one of his collegiate career on the fourth hole.

“Coach told me to aim right of the hole, but I decided to shoot a little more left and cut into it,” Yang said. “That’s my go-to shot. It was an incredible feeling to sink that early into the tournament.”

Head coach Ryan Donovan praised the senior’s work, saying “it was a great weekend for him” and “he put us in contention.” Yang also holed six birdies through 17 holes on the final day.

Senior Nahum Mendoza III, junior PJ Samiere and redshirt freshman Trevor Norby weren’t far behind as they all tied for eighth (-2).

Day two saw the Scarlet and Black drop to fourth (-9) in the team standings, which put them behind first-place Colorado State (-13) and tied-for-second Boise State and UNLV (-11).

Yang still carried the team in fifth place with a combined score of 4-under. Norby and teammate junior Blake Abercrombie were the next best in 15th (-1). Both Samiere and Mendoza slipped into 21st (E) and 41st (+5), respectively.

“The second round really set us back,” Donovan said. “We didn’t hit the shots we really needed to sink. It allowed some of those schools to surpass us.”

On the third day, despite SDSU improving its score by six strokes, it couldn’t surpass the three teams in front on the leaderboard. UNLV took its second consecutive MW Championship with a score of 18-under while Colorado State was the runner up (-17) and Boise State finished in third (-16).

The Aztecs led by as many as two strokes on the leaderboard during the day as they were able to sink multiple birdies on the back nine holes. However, they were outlasted by the Rebels, who led the tournament in birdie shots.

“There were only a couple swings that made the difference,” Donovan said. “We were right there. But luckily we can take a lot of positives from this weekend.”

Yang finished the weekend off by logging his lowest three-round total of the season at 7-under. He tied Ryan Wallen of Wyoming University and Andre Garcia of University of New Mexico for third place on the individual rankings. Boise State’s Brian Humphreys claimed the individual title (-12) after starting out in the second position.

As for the other Aztecs, Samiere captured 14th (-2), Norby came in 21st (+1) and Mendoza and Abercrombie tied for 28th (+2).

SDSU’s postseason fate is in the hands of the NCAA committee, which will announce the regional bids on Thursday, May 4 on the Golf Channel. From there, only the top-5 from regionals qualify for the NCAA National Championships.

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