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Great Balance in Lineup Boosts UCSB Golfers into Big West Lead

Zach Smith was one of three players in the same group to eagle the par-5 13th hole in the second round of the Big West Golf Championship at Sandpiper Golf Course on Tuesday, and his performance helped UC Santa Barbara to a 6-shot lead heading into Wednesday's final round.

Cal Poly's Justin De Los Santos and Joe Fryer of Long Beach State joined Smith in the eagle threesome but their teams, which were tied with the Gauchos at 6-under par after round one, trail the leaders by six and eight shots respectively. Cal State Northidge is also eight shots back and tied for third.

After UCSB fell to fourth-place during the early stages of the second round, it caught fire midway through and rolled the rest of the way, transforming a 5-shot deficit into a 9-shot advantage at one point. 

"We got off to a slow start today but kept our composure and were very good down the stretch," said UCSB head coach Steve Lass. "We've put ourselves in a good position heading into Wednesday." 

Nick Swanson followed-up his 3-under par first round with a 3-under par second and will head into Wednesday in third-place at 6-under par. Brandon Bauman, the defending individual champion, carded a 2-under par Tuesday and is now 5-under after two rounds, in fourth-place. Aided by his eagle, Smith is 4-under and is in fourth. Brett Bennett, who had an eagle of his own on the par-5 fifth hole, is even-par overall, tied for Xth. 

"We had great balance today," Lass said. "All five guys played well. When your throwaway score is a 73, you've done a very good job." 

Northridge's Felix Mory is the leader among individuals. Mory equaled his 4-under par first round with another 4-under performance and will enter the final round at 8-under, one shot ahead of Long Beach's Fryer, who shot a 6-under 66 on Tuesday. 

On Wednesday, the Gauchos will be aiming to win their first Big West team title since 1998. A win would assure them a bid into the NCAA Regionals which will be played on May 15-17.

"I know the course is going to be set up very tough," Lass said. "I just home that our guys play good, smart golf. It would be nice to have this team be able to play one more tournament.

Wednesday's final round will tee-off on the first and 10th holes at 7:30 a.m. UCSB, Cal Poly and Long Beach State will tee-off on the first hole at 8:20 a.m.

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