Virginia men’s golf began their fall campaign on the road this weekend at the Valero Texas Collegiate in San Antonio. The starting group looked a little different than those of last year, with the absence of sophomore Ben James being the most glaring change. After a strenuous summer capped off with a Walker Cup appearance just last weekend, James was given the week off for rest. Instead, opportunities were given to two college debutants in freshman Josh Duangmanee and junior Paul Chang.
In round one Saturday, the Cavaliers battled through tough conditions — temperatures were north of 100 degrees — to scrap together an even-par round of 288. This put them in fifth place and five strokes back of the lead. Sophomore Bryan Lee led the squad with a one-under 71 with consecutive birdies on seven and eight as well as on 12 and 13. Junior Deven Patel birdied hole nine to go into the turn at one-under and proceeded to birdie two of his next three holes on the way to an even-par 72. Senior Grayson Wotnosky fired his own 72 while Duangmanee experienced some growing pains in his first college start, shooting 75 to start the event.
Sunday brought more of the same success for Lee, as he birdied 14, 15, and 16 to shoot another 71 and supplant himself near the top of the individual leaderboard. Chang followed up a first-round 73 with a second-round 72. The other Cavaliers did not fare quite as well, however, with Patel and Duangmanee both ending their rounds at two-over and Wotnosky shooting a 75. At the end of the second round, Virginia found itself in fourth place, seven shots behind the lead.
Lee continued to be the epitome of consistency in the third round, shooting yet another 71 on his way to an eighth-place individual finish. Monday’s highlight, however, was the newcomer Chang. His third-round 69 was the lowest score for the Cavaliers during the event and it came at a vital time in which their fourth-place position was quietly being hunted by Oklahoma and LSU. Patel also ended on a great note with a round of 70 to cement a top-20 individual finish. Wotnosky and Duangmanee continued to struggle with a 75 and a 74, respectively. It was no matter for Virginia, however, as the Cavaliers maintained their position in fourth place and put together a strong team performance across all three days of 2023’s opening event.
It was an especially encouraging result given Virginia was playing without James. The season is still young, but the Cavaliers’ ability to show depth across the roster will undoubtedly pay dividends as the team moves forward.
Virginia remains tied for No. 13 nationally according to the most recent GCAA poll, but this week’s finish certainly proved their placement amongst the nation’s best programs. The Cavaliers now set their eyes on the Chicago Highlands Invitational Monday, especially with Ben James likely returning to the action. Coach Bowen Sargent and the rest of the staff are surely liking what they are seeing out of this roster and the sophomore arrival of one of the best college golfers in the country is sure to fuel this team heading into yet another early challenge in Chicago.