It was an all-around success for the LMU golf team at the Nick Watney Invitational in Fresno last week. The five Lion golfers who competed shot a combined 836 across three rounds, a program record by five strokes. They ultimately finished second to BYU. The Lions were led by redshirt junior Gavin Cohen, who shot 203 and defeated BYU junior Carson Lundell in a one-hole playoff to win the tournament’s individual title. It is the first tournament win of Cohen’s collegiate career.
“It's just something that happens when you're doing all the little things right,” said head coach Jason D’Amore. “We've been doing the little things right for about a month and a half now and then, you know, things start to sort of fall into place.”
The high results for the team come at a time during which D’Amore and the golfers are focusing not just on their physical health but their mental health as well. The Lions have undertaken a number of exercises to work on their well-being, including stretching routines, meditation and writing down affirmations. These steps have helped the golfers all stay in the same mindset and keep focused on their goals during rounds.
“Writing them down is one thing, but seeing it happen is another,” Cohen said of the affirmations. “And applying it to my daily ritual is something that I find is very powerful.”
Cohen has set a number of ambitious targets for himself and the Lions, including a spot on the All-WCC First Team, an individual conference title and an NCAA regional qualification for the team. His goals are undeniably lofty, but his hopes of achieving them received a nice boost after the tournament in Fresno.
Cohen felt confident going into the event that he could be successful, citing his preparation and a course that played to his strengths.
“I'm a cut player [and] a lot of the golf course was left to right,” he said. “So it laid out for me nicely.”
Cohen and Lundell went back and forth throughout the tournament, particularly during the final round. After a close call on the 18th hole in which Lundell almost made a winning shot, the two went to a playoff. Cohen shot a four while Lundell shot a five.
“Just staying calm and collected was definitely key,” Cohen said. “Being able to step up and have a clear mind and hit some good shots under a pretty high-pressure situation was fun.”
“He always hits it great. He always putts great,” D’Amore said about Cohen. “The player that wins every week is just the person who's thinking the best. And he obviously did. And he absolutely rocked in the playoff.”
The other contributors to the LMU team's success were freshman Caden McMackin, who shot 211; freshman Riley Lewis and redshirt junior Cameron Meeks, who both shot 213; and redshirt freshman Guy Clauss, who shot 228.
Now that the Lions have completed their most successful tournament of the season thus far, they can begin looking ahead to the rest of the year and focus on sustaining the momentum they picked up in Fresno. They play next in about two weeks at the Sacramento State Invitational.
“Going forward, I don't see why we can't continue to keep doing what we're doing,” D’Amore said. “It feels like everyone wants to do that. Everyone's committed to doing that … the culture is really strong and seems like everyone's on the same page. So it's a good feeling to have.”