Loyola Marymount wins Golfweek Fall Challenge with a birdie party and a history lesson

Jason D’Amore is a statistics and numbers guy. Still, few rounds send him to the record books for motivation.

After his Loyola Marymount team went 17 under in the opening round of the Golfweek Fall Challenge at True Blue Golf Club in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, D’Amore decided to do some digging. Knowing that sometimes it’s hard to follow up a really good round, D’Amore decided to search for team and individual records to change the narrative.

“I just threw some numbers at them and had them more like hey, let’s break some records and shoot these numbers versus being in first or second or third,” D’Amore said. “We can’t control what the other teams are going to do, but we know what we’re capable of. We set some goals for ourselves every day that were more based on us than anyone else.”

The switch worked as Loyola Marymount played the following 36 holes in 30 under and won the team title by a stroke over Washington State on September 12. The Lions landed three players inside the top 7, while individual medalists went to Washington State’s Pono Yanagi and Arkansas State’s Thomas Schmidt, who both finished at 17 under.

Score: Golf Week Fall Challenge

College golf may be an individual sport, but D’Amore knows that, for better or for worse, players feed off each other. At True Blue, the Lions kept the goal focused on themselves and let the chips fall around them.

In the history of the Golfweek Fall Challenge, only three teams have gone under 30 in 54 holes at True Blue. Campbell set the scoring record at 48-under when it won in 2018. The individual record remains with Jacksonville State alum Tomas Anderson, whose 19-under total in 2014 included a final-round 60.

How does a team go down 47? D’Amore emphasizes consistency more than fireworks. Loyola Marymount tallied at least three scores in the 60s in each round and never tallied anything higher than 72. Inviting conditions also played a role, he noted.

“The greens were soft, the ball went a long way, there wasn’t much wind,” D’Amato said. “It was just one of those perfect recipes where you got some guys that could play good golf and the golf course really just didn’t have a ton of defense because of the conditions.”

Loyola Marymount was two shots off the lead entering the final round and was paired with Washington State and Western Carolina on the final day. All three teams fed each other with birdies flying.

As his team approached the final four holes, D’Amato texted his assistant coach Michael McCabe that he thought his team would need to shoot 55 under to pull ahead of Washington State.

The closing gauntlet backed everyone up.

“When we turned 16, 17, 18, it was a lot of playing phone and trying to figure out where we were,” D’Amato said.

D’Amato and McCabe tried to gather as much information as they could in the final holes and help their players make the best decisions possible. In the end, they beat Washington State by one shot. D’Amato was proud of the way his players stayed in the moment to finish the job.

A win in the first tournament out has the effect of creating a platform that a team can build on for the rest of the season. The Lions last won a team title in the spring of 2021 when they won two tournaments back-to-back.

“One of the guys said something about this makes the 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls for practice worth it,” D’Amato said. “My answer was that it does, but it also makes you excited for the next practice at 5:30 a.m. because you know those days are what lead to winning a championship and having a chance to win.”

When you have this kind of momentum, D’Amato notes, you won’t have much time off. Loyola Marymount was heading home to Los Angeles after the True Blue title only to head north to San Francisco in four more days to play the USF/Howard Intercollegiate at TPC Harding Park.

“If we didn’t play well this week,” he said, “we’d hope we had a little bit of time, but when we played well it’ll be nice to get going again.”

No rest for winners.

The story originally appeared on GolfWeek

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