No. 8 Stanford men’s golf competed in the desert this week at The Prestige in La Quinta, Calif. After a slow start in the first two rounds, the Cardinal posted the second-lowest team score on Wednesday, a two-under-par 282, to finish in seventh place out of 24 teams.
Throughout the tournament, the Cardinal not only faced off against some of the top programs in the country — No. 5 Pepperdine, No. 6 Texas Tech, No. 13 Kansas and No. 21 Vanderbilt — but they also battled the elements. High winds persisted throughout all three rounds and kept the players on edge.
“The course conditions definitely played a factor,” said head coach Conrad Ray. “With the wind and a few spots that had not grown in with winter over seed, it was very challenging.”
During round one on Monday, Stanford began its campaign on the front nine of PGA West’s Greg Norman course. In the blustery conditions, no Cardinal golfer shot par or better.
Fresh off a 64 in his final round of the Amer Ari Invitational, sophomore Michael Thorbjornsen led Stanford with a one-over-par 72. Close behind was junior Barclay Brown, who recorded a three-over-par 74. Sixth year Henry Shimp and fifth year Nate Menon rounded out the Cardinal’s scoring with rounds of 78.
After the first day of play, the Cardinal sat in a tie for 18th place, 15 shots behind leaders Oregon and Vanderbilt.
In the second round of The Prestige, the winds worsened, eventually culminating in play being suspended. The Cardinal, however, teed off in the morning and were able to complete their round before officials blew the horn.
The Cardinal’s morning tee time put them at a distinct disadvantage. While teams with the afternoon tee times were able to avoid the worst of the wind, teams with morning tee times had to face it head-on.
Stanford recorded a 23-over-par team total in brutal conditions of the second round. Shimp shot the lowest score for the Cardinal, a four-over-par 75.
Entering the final round on Wednesday, Stanford stood in 19th place at 41-over-par. The Cardinal were no longer in contention for the team title, but they still wanted to finish strong in the final round and rise up the leaderboard.
And that’s exactly what they did. With a two-under-par final round, Stanford surpassed 12 teams and finished in seventh place.
Sophomore Karl Vilips led the charge in the final round. Vilips, who struggled by his standards for the first two days, found his groove on Wednesday. He recorded seven birdies to go against just two bogeys and shot the lowest score of the tournament, a five-under-par 66.
“We know that Karl Vilips will be a main factor in our success this spring,” Ray said. “He has the ability to go low and be our lead dog most days. Excited to see how he builds on this momentum.”
Menon also broke par for Stanford, posting a score of 70. Thorbjornsen registered his second 72 of the tournament, while Brown and Shimp each shot 74.
Individually, Thorbjornsen recorded the best finish for the Cardinal, a tie for 16th place. He has now finished in the top-20 in four of his last six events.
Sophomore Jake Beber-Frankel and senior Daulet Tuleubayev competed in a separate individual tournament held at Coral Mountain Golf Club. Beber-Frankel shot rounds of 77, 78 and 79 to finish in 48th place out of 62 players. Tuleubayev finished in a tie for 56th.
Overall, Ray was pleased with his team’s performance, particularly on Wednesday.
“I thought our team hung in there with a difficult draw and tough weather conditions. We played a great final round so I’m happy for that and I think it’s a good momentum boost for our trip next week,” Ray said.
Next up for Stanford is the Cabo Collegiate at the Cabo del Sol Ocean Course in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The three-day tournament will begin Saturday, Feb. 27.