Oct. 12, 2012
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Rice junior Jeff Wibawa is back to defend his individual title from last season as the Owls' golf team returns to competition at the annual Lone Star Invitational this Sunday through Tuesday (Oct. 14-16) in San Antonio.
A year ago Wibawa posted a sensational 54-hole total of seven-under par 209 to win the individual championship among a field of more than 85 entrants at the Briggs Ranch Golf Club. In his second round of the tournament Wibawa, then a sophomore, fired a season-best five-under 67 thanks to back-to-back birdies on the fifth and sixth holes followed by an eagle at No. 7. The Encino, Calif., native then shot a steady 72 in tough conditions in the final round for the title.
This year the tournament, hosted by Texas-San Antonio, has moved to the 6,931-yard Hill Country Resort Golf Club. It should prove to be an even greater challenge for Wibawa and his Rice teammates, but Owl head coach Justin Emil said the Blue & Gray wouldn't have it any other way.
"I know Jeff has been looking forward to this opportunity," coach Emil said, now in his second season at the helm of the Owl golf program. "Coming off a Top 10 individual finish at our last tournament (The Jim Rivers Intercollegiate in Louisiana on Oct. 1-2) I feel pretty good about his chances of defending."
At the Jim Rivers Intercollegiate Wibawa shot a one-under par 215 to tie for seventh overall. Up and down the Rice lineup the Owls played well enough at that tournament to record the team's best finish of the year and move past some opposing teams in the final round.
Three of the Owls' starting five from Louisiana, Wibawa, sophomore Joe Beck III and junior Landon Michelson are in the Rice lineup for the Lone Star. Senior Brock Wilson is back for his third appearance of the fall schedule and sophomore Ryan Benevides is making his Rice season debut.
For as much as coach Emil was looking forward to returning to play as quickly as possible and keeping-up the momentum the team had built in Louisiana, he said there was something to be said for the short break between the previous and upcoming tournament. The golf season is a long one, and don't be surprised if the Owls still have a little of that momentum from Louisiana left in the tank.
"It's been great for the team to have a little over a week to catch up in school and also get in some solid practice," the head coach said. "These guys get a little better each week, so I'm looking forward to seeing them continue that trend in San Antonio."