It was all on Anton Arboleda’s shoulders.
The 2010 La Cañada High graduate and UCLA men’s golfer was part of the last group with Oregon’s Eugene Wong in the win-or-go-home match-play round in the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships Friday.
Arboleda, a sophomore with the Bruins, trailed Wong heading to the 18th hole and came close to forcing a tie but missed a long birdie putt by about an inch to secure Wong’s victory and the Ducks’ 3-2 win to end UCLA’s season at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.
“I got off to a good start and hit some good shots on the front nine,” said Arboleda, who is currently ranked 62 in GolfWeek’s Top 100 men’s collegiate golfers and 85th in GolfStat’s Top 100. “I got a couple bad breaks on the back nine and had a couple bogeys. I felt good about [my round] but it just wasn’t enough.”
Arboleda held a two-hole lead through the first nine holes when Wong bogeyed the second and fourth holes. Wong evened the score with a birdie at 10 and an Arboleda bogey at 12. The advantage bounced back to Arboleda when Wong bogeyed at 14, but saw it disappear for good when he bogeyed at 15 and 16.
“I felt like I definitely improved [this year], which is good, but I definitely left some things out there and I have a lot of things to work on and improve for next year,” said Arboleda, who was an All-PAC-12 honorable mention for the first time in his career this season after he tied for 13th in the conference championship and averaged an 18-hole score of 72.5. “I am looking forward to having a good year next year.”
Arboleda couldn’t have had a much better start to the tournament. He was the first-round leader in the 156-player field by one stroke after he carded a four-under-par 67 with an eagle and five birdies Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t say it was the best golf of my career, but it was a pretty good back nine,” Arboleda said. “A couple things had been going my way on the back nine and I hadn’t really been able to do that all year.”
Arboleda dropped into a second-place tie with a one-over-par 72 Wednesday and fell to an eight-way tie for 13th-place Thursday after shooting a five-over-par 76 to bring his total score to 215.
The fifth-seeded Bruins, however, remained in second place with a total team score of 861, nine shots over par, after shooting their lowest round of the tournament, a one-over-par 285, Thursday.
A nine-over-par three-round team score of 861 put the Bruins into match play in the eight-team field, which included Alabama (first, 859), Texas (third, 869), Cal, San Diego State (tied for fourth, 871), Washington (sixth, 872), Oregon (seventh, 873), Kent State and Florida State (tied for eighth, 875).