There have only been two golfers in the 39-year history of the Thunderbird Invitational to win the tournament in consecutive years.
One is Phil Mickelson, the PGA Tour pro and No. 4-ranked golfer in the world.
The other is J.J. Spaun, a junior on the San Diego State men’s golf team.
“It’s pretty cool,” Spaun said of his accomplishment last Sunday. “It’s pretty nice having my name strung in the same sentence as one of golf’s greatest players.”
There are other words being used in the same sentences as Spaun and the Aztecs this season too: successful, confident and nationally ranked.
SDSU has finished in the top three in nine of the 10 tournaments it has competed in so far this season; five of those were first place finishes. The success has been enough to earn the Aztecs a No. 4 national ranking. After an upset of top-ranked UCLA last month, SDSU earned Golfweek.com’s national Team of the Week honors.
Five of the team’s top six golfers hold a round average of par 72 or better. In the fall, redshirt junior Colin Featherstone was ranked as high as No. 25 nationally and currently both Spaun and junior Alex Kang rank in the top 100.
“We just have a lot of guys that are dedicated to getting good,” Featherstone said. “We all just feed off each other as a team and when we’re playing well we know that we are the better team and we can win anything.”
“We’re all very competitive,” Spaun added. “Everyone wants to beat each other so everyone’s out there working that much harder in practice.”
If there is one person who knows about working hard to turn their season around, it’s Spaun.
After the first three fall tournaments, his stroke average per round was the worst on the team. Through seven tournaments this spring, it has become the team’s best.
Before carding a double bogey during his round last Saturday, he held a streak of 126 consecutive holes without scoring worse than a bogey. He has shot par or better in his last eight consecutive rounds and twice this year has earned Mountain West Conference Player of the Month honors. Earlier this week, he received the Golfweek.com national Player of the Week award.
“This year J.J. has worked the hardest I’ve ever seen him work and I think that that’s really transpired into his success,” head coach Ryan Donovan said. “His consistency has just been phenomenal in terms of not scoring big numbers anymore, learning how to play the percentages on the golf course and believing in himself more than anything. It’s enhanced his attitude.”
“He’s just building off of confidence right now and that’s just such a huge thing in golf,” Featherstone added. “When you have confidence that’s when you play well.”
Despite his recent success and being what Featherstone calls the “unofficial leader” on a team that lacks a captain, it’s been nothing short of a full team effort that has gotten SDSU to this point in the season.
“I’ve got six guys that are really close to each other and they all think they’re the best player on the team, and that is a good problem to have,” Donovan said.
With just one match remaining before the MWC Tournament, the Aztecs look to be in prime position to win the conference championship, a feat yet to be accomplished in the history of the golf program.
“We’re really focused on just playing week to week so we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves, but I think this team can go as far as any other team in the country,” Donovan said. “They’re that good and they believe in themselves, but it’s day by day for now and we’ll just have to wait and see.”