Making the Rounds: UC Davis pulls off golf shocker

The Goodwin-winning UC Davis men’s golf team, from left, Luke Vivolo, Patrick Soli, Brandon Baumgarten, Ben Corfee, Ryan Knop, Evan Knight (who played as an individual) and coach Cy Williams.
The Goodwin-winning UC Davis men’s golf team, from left, Luke Vivolo, Patrick Soli, Brandon Baumgarten, Ben Corfee, Ryan Knop, Evan Knight (who played as an individual) and coach Cy Williams. Stanford athletics

UC Davis isn’t a factory that churns out pro golfers, but there typically aren’t 100 men’s teams in the nation better than the Aggies, who annually contend for the Big West Conference title and an NCAA Division I postseason berth.

Yet UCD was ranked 101st and 103rd, depending on the poll, Thursday at the start of Stanford’s The Goodwin, one of the most prestigious tournaments in the nation.

Ball don’t lie, to borrow from former NBA player Rasheed Wallace. And the Aggies’ 2015-16 season had been poor. Their best team showing in seven events was fifth. They finished 18th of 19 in Hawaii in February against many of the teams they faced at Stanford Golf Course.

So what did the Aggies do? They blitzed the 26-team field, winning by 10 strokes in wire-to-wire fashion.

“One of the biggest upsets in the history of the game,” said Lance Ringler, who has covered college golf for Golfweek for 16 years. “I can tell you that a team ranked in the 100s beating such a stacked field has never happened, at all, let alone beating USC by 30 shots and on Stanford’s home course. It just doesn’t happen.”

UCD led by three shots after the first round and by 10 after the second. The Aggies’ 13-under-par 827 three-round total was 10 shots better than runner-up UNLV. Stanford, eighth-ranked by Golfstat, was 12 shots behind in third. Top-ranked USC, which thumped the Aggies by 56 strokes at the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii in February, was 30 shots behind in ninth. There were seven top-40 teams in the field.

Cy Williams, UCD’s coach for 21 years, said he knew his team was capable of playing better, but his constant positive reinforcement was getting stale without results to match.

“Every tournament, something was off,” Williams said. “At some point, the players just have to do it. I knew we had some great performances in us. I didn’t know we had this in us.”

UC Davis senior Luke Vivolo birdied two of the final three holes to win the individual title by one shot. He’s now No. 392 in Golfweek’s individual college rankings. He beat 137 players, including three (Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, USC’s Rico Hoey and Oregon’s Aaron Wise) in the top 10. Vivolo, the 2014-15 Big West Player of the Year, went back to his old swing coach in February, apparently not a moment too soon.

Junior Ben Corfee, a Davis resident and the son of UCD alumni, tied for fifth. Senior Patrick Soli, who hit bottom with an opening-round 87 two months ago in Hawaii, tied for eighth. Freshman Ryan Knop tied for 35th. Sophomore Brandon Baumgarten from Granite Bay, a recent transfer from Oregon competing for the Aggies for the first time, tied for 112th but had a 69 that counted in the second round.

Williams didn’t say much before Saturday’s final round. He sensed the players were in a good place mentally.

“I told them what to wear and where to meet,” he said. “I didn’t say a word otherwise.”

Knop birdied four of his first eight holes. Corfee and Soli also had two early birdies as UCD built a 17-shot lead midway through the final round. Vivolo took care of the rest.

“Unless it’s Alabama playing against a pretty crappy field, it doesn’t happen like that,” Williams said.

The Aggies play in Arizona State’s Thunderbird Invitational this weekend, followed by their El Macero Classic April 15-17 and the Big West Championship in early May. The NCAA regionals follow, depending on which version of the team shows up next.

“It was the biggest win in the history of the program, no doubt,” Williams said. “But we’re nobodies again starting today and have to get back to work.”

Et cetera

▪ Kevin Huff (boys) and Neeve Chen (girls) won the Sacramento Junior Easter Championship at Bing Maloney.

▪ Tommy Semereaux and Ryan Wilson defeated Tom Crowther and Eric Olsem 4 and 3 in the title match of the Sacramento City Four-ball at Bing.

▪ James Feutz beat Kyle Davies 6 and 5 in the title match of the Sacramento Valley Match Play at Diamond Oaks.

▪ Aerified this week: Castle Oaks, Catta Verdera, The Ridge, Teal Bend, Timber Creek, WildHawk and Woodcreek.

▪ Qualifying for William Jessup’s $1 million hole-in-one shootout begins Friday at Haggin Oaks. Four finalists will get one shot at $1 million April 15 at Catta Verdera.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526, @Steve_Pajak