Courtesy of SDSU Athletics
San Diego State men’s golfer Leo Oyo won The Prestige in La Quinta, California on Feb. 19.
The victory was the first collegiate win for Oyo, and the third time an Aztec has won an individual event this season.
The victory was a well awaited one for the sophomore who placed 77th out of 82 players in the same tournament last year.
“It meant a lot to me,” Oyo said. “Coming in as a freshman, I was the 12th-ranked junior in the country, and so I had a lot of confidence and expectations were high for me.
“Playing at The Prestige last year was one of my worst performances. All in all, it wasn’t a very good year for me as a freshman and it brought my confidence down since I knew I was playing well, I knew how good I was, but the results weren’t showing. This past year since then has been kind of like a roller coaster effect. I worked hard for this, and it was a special moment for me.”
Head coach Ryan Donovan said Oyo’s performance was a testament to all of the hard work he has put in.
“I was ecstatic,” Donovan told The Daily Aztec. “To be able to give him a big hug on the 18th green was pretty special because he’s worked so hard over the past year to get to where he is.”
Oyo hit a bogey during the first two holes of the afternoon, but was then seven-under-par for the rest of the round.
“I started with those two bogeys and it wasn’t because I was playing bad, it was actually because I hit it too good that it went too far,” the Tokyo native said. “That moment told me I had a little more adrenaline going that day because I was so excited, which isn’t a bad thing at all.”
Oyo also had birdies during the third, sixth, eighth, 11th and 12th holes in the same round.
The key play was during the 16th hole. Oyo chipped a shot from 10 feet off the green into the hole for an eagle, moving him from second place to sole possession from first place.
He finished the 19th hole with a shot on the green that was two feet from the hole. From there, he tapped it right in, giving him a score of 11-under-202 for the tournament victory.
Oyo finished on top of a field that had included eight of the top 25 college men’s golfers in the nation.
Donovan said one key Oyo and assistant coach Evan Emerick prepared for in this tournament was to stay aggressive and take advantage of his length to be able to drive the ball in farther distances.
“He’s one of the longer hitters in college golf,” he said of Oyo, who stands at 6-foot-4. “With long hitters they try to stay aggressive and take advantage of the length out there because since it’s a golf course you can get conservative and playback. With his length I figured let’s just put the pedal to the metal and be aggressive.”
Winning The Prestige not only allowed Oyo to regain confidence in himself, but it also showed he can compete with the best competition in men’s college golf and at a difficult golf course.
“I was playing with some of the best players in the country,” Oyo said. “So I was able to tell myself I have what it takes to compete with these guys. Also it was a huge confidence boost for me knowing I can compete at a very difficult course like that one.”
Looking forward, Oyo knows even though the awards are great, it is just the first step towards a larger goal.
“I celebrated for a few days and had a good time,” he said. “After that, I realized it’s time to move on since it was the first event of the season.”
Oyo and the SDSU men’s golf team will play in the Lamkin San Diego Classic at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista on March 9 and 10.
Devin Whatley is a sophomore studying journalism. Follow him on Twitter @devinwhatley.