UCI owns fresh look

Looking at rosters from both UC Irvine men's and women's golf teams, one similarity jumps out.

They are both young.

The UCI women, who finished sixth among 13 teams in their opening tournament (the Washington State Cougar Cup Sept. 19 and 20), have one senior and one junior to go with three sophomores and three freshmen.

The senior, Lalita Patipaksiri, placed fourth overall at last year's Big West Championships and led the Anteaters in scoring average at 76.24. Redshirt freshman Michelle Yang tallied a 74 in the final round of the Cougar Cup en route to a tie for 32nd.

The Wolfpack Classic in Nevada Oct. 3 and 4 will be the first tournament of the year for sophomore Taryn Yee and the collegiate debut for Sarah Baek. UCI also has sophomores Sara Banke and Ronnie Valerio, junior Michelle Park and freshman Brenna Carlson.

Last year, Valerio was named Big West Freshman of the Year.

Meanwhile on the men's side, Paul Smolinski, in his 14th year at the helm, said his team has been inconsistent in the early going.

"They've struggled at times and aren't able to keep it together," Smolinski said. "We're trying to work to keep them from bad rounds and getting out of control."

The 'Eaters finished last in the 15-team Golfweek Challenge Cup in Iowa earlier this week and started the year eighth of 15 teams in the St. Mary's Invitational in Monterey.

In Iowa, sophomore Allan Jun placed 28th (73-76-73—222) at six-over-par.

Jun is one of three sophomores (the two others are Estancia High and Orange Coast College product Ryan Knapp and Zack Duan). Juniors Mickey Chan and Michael Yang join freshmen Bhuvan Potluri, Jae Kang and redshirt Pete Fernandez. Smolinski said Fernandez came in with an inflamed wrist last year, but is back healthy.

Potluri was a three-time All-Pacific Coast League first-team player at Woodbridge, while Kang joined him on the first team while playing at Beckman.

The 'Eaters have no seniors.

"The focus is trying to get all playing experience in tournaments and focused for the spring," Smolinski said. "Getting guys to turn an 83 into a 75 is a challenge."

When asked to identify bright spots this year, Smolinski said, "the middle round at the Blackhorse (Golf Course in the St. Mary's Invitational) we shot four-over. The first round Pete shot 70 and two guys shot lower. We shot 10-over as a team. We've had decent rounds on tough courses."

Next up for UCI will be the Alister Mackenzie Invitational in Fairfax, Calif. Oct. 17 and 18.

BRYCE ALDERTON is the golf writer for the Daily Pilot. He can be reached at balderto78@yahoo.com.

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