CSUN men’s golf tees off the new season

Sundial+File+photo+of+CSUN+mens+golf+player+Eirik+Thomassen+during+the+first+round+of+the+25th+Bill+Cullum+Invitational.

Braden Villanueva

Sundial File photo of CSUN men’s golf player Eirik Thomassen during the first round of the 25th Bill Cullum Invitational.

Edward Segal, Sports Editor

Coming off a season in which they won two tournaments, saw four players make a Big West all-conference team and another go on to win the National Norwegian Match Play Championship, the Matadors men’s golf squad seems to have found the recipe for success.

Winning the Bill Cullum Invitational last October to claim their first victory in over a decade, and repeating with a win at the UC Santa Barbara Collegiate Classic in April, the Matadors finally broke through and rose to the top. Retaining everyone but Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational second-place finisher Blake Brothers, the future is bright for the young talent of CSUN’s golf team.

“We have good team chemistry, and we have a lot of talent,” said head coach Jim Bracken. “I’m definitely looking forward to a pretty successful year. Last year we won two tournaments, and we finished third in conference, and I’d love to improve on that.”

The Matadors traveled to Colorado for their first tour of the season from Sept. 9-11, and finished in seventh place. The Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational saw 24 universities compete across 54 holes, split into three days of competition.

Shooting eight strokes above par on day one, the Matadors started the competition hot, coming in tied for second by the end of Friday. Leading the pack for CSUN was Eirik Thomassen, who finished tied for sixth by the end of the tour, shooting four below par. This is much improved from his 57th place finish at last year’s Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational.

“Last year was a poor performance. I remember I was struggling with my game, especially in the first round,” said Thomassen. “The course is demanding on and around the greens, but I felt pretty confident in those areas from my previous experiences with the course. I did not play very aggressive, but stayed away from the big mistakes which is always important to help the team in the best way.”

Felix Schrott and senior Paul-Louis Gachet tied for 34th, helping the Matadors earn a seventh-place finish.

The Matadors had six players who finished top 10 in at least one invitational last season, including Brothers, who finished tied for second in the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational. Now seniors Gachet, Thomassen, Schrott and Thomas Burou have a total of seven finishes in the top seven between the four of them. Nick Fowlkes produced two top 10 outings in his freshman year.

Retaining Thomassen, who finished tied for second in both competitions the Matadors won, as well as others with top 10 finishes, the Matadors have trended upward as they look to carry their success over to the fall of 2022.

“We just need to continue with the consistent play that we had last year,” said Bracken. “We have a good group, and they all have good experience now. We had a couple freshmen who were good last year, who had a really good freshman year, and we had four guys make all-conference. So I’m just looking to continue at the same level and hopefully get good results.”

The only newcomer is junior Nick Burns, who transferred from Ventura College. One of his top performances came when he finished second in the Southern California Regionals to push the Pirates to the California Community College Athletic Association State Championships. As the only player new to the Matadors, Burns will look to use his experience to fill the void left by Brothers.

A unique facet of the team is its four European players — two from France, one from Norway and one from Italy. Thomassen, who hails from Norway, just won the National Norwegian Match Play Championship, beating Norwegian golfer Petter Dale in a tight match, and returns to CSUN with a new award to his name.

“The [international players] just add a different maturity and the guys just get along great, and now they all want to go to Europe with their teammates, but it’s pretty fun,” said Bracken. “They’re making lifelong friendships with people all over the world.”

With seven of their eight players from last season coming back and half the team hailing from overseas, the experience of the Matadors individually and their time spent playing together puts the group in a solid position for the upcoming season.

The Matadors will travel to Fresno for the Nick Watney Invitational starting Sept. 26.