David Puig pulled out a singles win Monday lifting Arizona State men’s golf to a one-point victory over Arizona in the inaugural Copper Cup at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club.
Puig, a sophomore from Spain who is No. 33 in World Amateur rankings, birdied the 16th hole then parred 17 and 18 for a 1-up win over Briggs Duce to clinch a 12.5-11.5-point win.
The two-day, Ryder Cup-style event launched a season that will conclude with NCAA Championships (men and women) at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale.
“It was really important to tie the match (on 16) because I knew my point was clutch and we needed it,” Puig said. “In Europe, we have a lot of tournaments like this competing for Spain or with a region from Spain. It helped me a lot to play better.”
Arizona, ranked No. 18 preseason by Golf Channel, led by one point after Sunday’s two rounds (fourball and singles) and remained up a point following a foursome best ball Monday morning. That left No. 1 ASU needing wins in five of eight singles matches in the final round to avoid an upset, at least on paper, to its rival.
Knowing that UA had an edge in depth with its eight players, ASU coach Matt Thurmond set up his lineup with an intent of dominating in the middle matches.
ASU’s Chun An Yu, World Amateur No. 4, won both of his matches Monday after going 0-1-1 Sunday. He was the first singles victor (5 and 4) in the final round followed by UA one-sided victories by Chase Sienkiewicz and Chaz Aurilia.
“Gabe (Salvanera) and Jeewon (Park) have been struggling with their games,” Thurmond said. “We knew those were going to be tough matches. So we felt like the next group really needed to get us going, and that’s where we put Kevin (Yu) and Blake (Wagoner).
“It was nice to have Kevin get up on it early and know we pretty much had that in the bank. Yesterday almost every underdog won. You just don’t know in match play.”
Yu, a three-time U.S. Open qualifier, said, “I played good yesterday but unfortunately didn’t win in the morning and tied in the afternoon (the only tie overall). Today, I played even better and made a couple of putts and hit more fairways and got better results.”
There was no greater example of that than UA’s Trevor Werbylo, World Amateur No. 45, losing all four of his matches.
The Sun Devils trailed by two points after Aurilia’s victory before four consecutive wins by Riggs Johnston, Wagoner, Cameron Sisk (World Amateur No. 28) over Werbylo and finally Puig, who halved the 18th hole in fading light with his teammates ringing the green.
“David is a great player,” Thurmond said. “He’s played a lot of match play and we really thought he would be exceptional this week. He didn’t win yesterday and he was behind all day today. I’m like c’mon Puig and sure enough he was the one who flipped it at the end.”
Mason Andersen won his first three matches to help keep ASU afloat before a loss in his final singles match after the meet outcome was determined. Sisk and Wagoner also went 3-1 for the Sun Devils.
Sienkiewicz and Reeves were 3-1 for Arizona, a team that Thurmond expects will be a Pac-12 and NCAA contender.
“If we do well in match play at the NCAA Championships in May, there’s no question we’ll look back and say wow what a great decision to play the Copper Cup,” Thurmond said. “Even those team matches (pairs) are a big deal because it’s the same flow of match play.
“I don’t think we would have been ready (for nationals) had we not done this. I really believe that. We were so much better this afternoon in how we played, strategically and managing our emotions than we were yesterday. It was inspired by Jim (Anderson, UA coach) and us to have this tournament. It’s going to help us compete well.”
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