April 30, 2003
The 11th ranked UCLA men's golf team won its fourth Pac-10 title and junior John Merrick became the fifth UCLA player to win conference medalist honors as the Bruins cruised to a 27-shot victory Wednesday at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale.
The team title was the Bruins' sixth of the season, a modern school record since the limitation of competition dates began several years ago.
Led by Merrick's course record nine-under par 63, the Bruins posted a final round team score of 358, two-under par for a 72-hole total of 1,439, one-under par. Sixth-ranked Arizona finished second at 1,466, followed by Arizona State at 1,475 and Stanford in fourth at 1,478. In fifth place was Washington at 1,484, followed by Oregon State at 1,503 and Oregon in seventh place at 1,504. California, USC and Washington State finished eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively.
The Pac-10 Men's Golf Championship is a 72-hole event with the best five out of six scores counting in team standings.
Merrick's course record broke the previous score of 64 at Oakmont set by Brian Hall. His card featured three eagles and three birdies and he played the back nine in 29 after posting consecutive eagles on 17 and 18, both par fives. On the 18th hole, Merrick sank a 12-foot downhill put that circled the hole before dropping.
"John was in the zone today," said head Coach O.D. Vincent. "He played an outstanding round and he deserves to be the conference champion."
In the final round, Merrick played with reigning U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes, who shot a three-under par 69.
"Today was John's day," said Barnes. "He started well and kept in going on the back nine."
Merrick's victory was his first collegiate title, marking the second straight year that the Pac-10 individual champion's first collegiate title has been the conference championship. Stanford's Jim Seki, who finished second at Oakmont, won his first collegiate title as the Pac-10 individual medalist last year.
Merrick shot an opening round of 74, two-over par, but played the final 54 holes in 14-under par. His score of 63 set a school record for lowest round in relation to par (-9) and it was a collegiate career best round. He finished with a 72-hole total of 276, 12-under par.
Four other UCLA players finished among the Top 20. Travis Johnson and Steve Conway each tied for eighth place at two-over par 290. Roy Moon tied for 12th at 291 and John Poucher placed 19th at 297. Freshman Spencer Levin tied for 32nd at 303 after carding a final round 73.
The Bruins' conference championship is their first in men's golf since 1985 when they won at Walla Walla Country Club, hosted by Washington State. That year also was the last time UCLA boasted an individual champion-Duffy Waldorf.
The Pac-10 Conference champion receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals. The Bruins, as one of the top seeds on the West Coast, will likely travel to Washington National for the NCAA West Regionals, May 15-17.