Brandon McDonough called it a “rough season,” saying he felt like he was in a rut throughout the Santa Monica High boys golf team’s campaign.

And then, at the Ocean League championships, it all changed.

McDonough surged out of his slump at just the right time, winning the individual title with a 74-76 (150) earlier this month at Wilson Golf Course at Griffith Park in Los Angeles.

“It was a dream come true,” he said. “To break through like that on one of the biggest days of the year was pretty gratifying.”

McDonough took first place by three strokes, holding off South Torrance’s Tom Milroy to win the two-round competition. And he did it in standout fashion, becoming the first freshman in program history to capture the individual crown.

Vikings coach Barton Burdick said it was a landmark achievement, not just for McDonough but for the school as well.

“It was a pretty special day,” said Burdick, a Samohi alumnus who has been involved with the school’s golf program in a coaching capacity for 16 years. “The potential has always been there, but that was a huge accomplishment. It’s not too often a freshman wins a league title. It’s very exciting. He has a bright future ahead of him.”

McDonough will lead the Vikings into a team divisional competition May 18 at Soule Park Golf Course in Ojai, where he and five teammates will vie for a top-two finish in an 18-hole tournament.

It’s the continuation of what has already been a memorable season for McDonough, who spent time working on chipping and putting after watching a tutorial video over spring break.

“The putter got quite hot,” he said. “I was able to get up and down from many different places, and having that variety really helped my game. “Everyone had an advantage on distance, but I knew I could get back with my short game. I knew I could perform. I was confident going into that week.”

McDonough went on to compete at the CIFSS Southern Regional individual tournament May 11 at Skylinks Golf Course in Long Beach, where he shot an 81 to finish in a seven-way tie for 78th place out of more than 100 elite players.

The Vikings’ best finisher at regionals was junior Ricky Garcia, who tied 10 other players for 59th place with a score of 79. Sophomore teammate Noah Ogata carded an 82 to take 85th.

It was the first time in about a decade that Burdick took three players to the regional event.

Huntington Beach-Marina senior Patrick Pockels won the regional title with a 67, edging Irvine-University’s William Tse and Irvine-Woodbridge’s Hidetoshi Yoshihara.

McDonough wasn’t his best at the regional tournament, but his coach said he’ll continue to develop his skills over the next three years.

“He’s not a big fella — he’s one of the smallest guys in the field — but that doesn’t mean he can’t hit the ball far,” Burdick said. “He’s a good player, and it’s showing.”

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, or on Twitter.

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