The UC Riverside men’s golf team tumbled out of the Bill Cullum Invitational as they concluded the fall portion of their season finishing 19th place out of 20 teams at the Wood Ranch Golf Club in Simi Valley, California. The Highlanders, who won the event in 2010, struggled to maintain the early season form that saw them finish in the top three in two previous events.

UC Riverside started the 54-hole event slowly as the team shot a first round score of 307, which placed them 17 out of 20 teams for the day.  David Gazzolo paced the squad with a respectable score of 73. Three other Highlanders scored in the seventies before the second round of 18 holes was suspended due to darkness.

The final day was an uphill battle for the Highlanders as they started the second round 19 shots behind the leading team, University of San Diego. Led again by Gazzolo, the Highlanders recovered from a lethargic start to finish ninth place in the middle round with a score of 298. Gazzolo rolled in five birdies as he continued his strong tournament play concluding the round with a score of 72. Teammates Christian Rajcic and Ryan Smith finished with scores of 74 and 75, respectively. Following a complete 36 hole round, the Highlanders were in fifteenth place trailing the overall leader, San Diego, by 38 strokes.

The deciding round saw the Highlanders plummet as they finished in last place with a score of 317 for the third round. Smith led the Highlanders firing a score of 78 while Gazzolo, Rajcic, and Bruce Doucett each scored under 81. Jason Semthiti rounded out the team with a score of 82. UC Riverside, following a disastrous final round, concluded the invitational with a total score of 922, which positioned them in 19th place over all preceding only CSU Bakersfield.

Gazzolo paced the Highlanders with a 225 total (73-72-80) to finish tied for 41th place overall in the final individual standings. Smith (78-75-78) and Rajcic (77-74-80) both tied for 69th place with a total score of 231 among the 108 total participants.

San Diego steamrolled through the competition accumulating a score of 850 (288-279-283) for a fourteen-under par. Arizona State was nine strokes back as they finished runner-up with a total score of 859.  Arizona State’s Jon Rahm Rodriguez won medalist honors with a 12-under par and an individual score of 204. Three shots behind was San Diego’s Grant Forest, who took second place honors with a 207. Travis Russell of UC Irvine completed the top three with a 209 finishing with a rare tournament eagle.

The start of 2012 season was one of the best in recent Highlander history as they finished in third place in the first two tournaments. The Highlanders haven’t had a pair of third place finishes in the same season, excluding dual matches, since the 2004-2005 season, a span of over eight years. The Highlanders look to recapture their fervent early season play as they return to competition Jan. 28 at the Arizona Intercollegiate tournament in Tuscon, Arizona.