Bears place fifth at Iowa tournament

Tough competition was not the only obstacle the Cal men’s golf team faced at their weekend tournament. The team had to struggle through whipping winds, wet conditions and bone-chilling cold as it faced off against some of the best teams in the country. Sound like a world away from sunny Berkeley? That’s Iowa.

The Bears also had quite a trek to get to the tournament, as missed flights forced them to drive part of the journey. After a long day of traveling to Birmingham, Iowa, to compete in the three-day Golfweek Conference Challenge, the Bears encountered sub-par weather conditions which persisted throughout the tournament.

“Everyone out there was struggling weather-wise,” coach Steve Desimone said. “It was a case of survival — fortunately we live to fight another day.”

The Bears lived to finish in fifth place at the end of the final round on Tuesday at Spirit Hollow Golf Course. Junior Max Homa was the Bears’ top scorer, tying for eighth.

One of two juniors starting for the young team, Homa tied for fifth in the team’s last event, the Wolverine Intercollegiate tournament, two weeks ago. The key to Homa’s success in Birmingham was a strong final round, during which he climbed from 16th place to eighth.

“Max got a good start,” Desimone said. “He came out strong and held steady all day.

“Max has had two really strong tournaments in a row.”

Homa had a strong final round, but it was his teammate Pace Johnson who paced the Bears through the first two rounds. Johnson finished the second round tied for fourth, but struggled through the final round. With only two birdies to counterbalance his six bogeys, he ended the day tied for 13th.

“We didn’t play great, but we played reasonably well,” Desimone said. “We will look back and say we got off to a pretty good start to the season. If I were to grade the performance this weekend, I’d give it a solid B.”

The Golfweek Conference Challenge, hosted by the Iowa Hawkeyes, is only the Bears’ second tournament of the season, following their win at the Wolverine Intercollegiate tournament. The field in Iowa was composed of 15 teams, each representing a different conference.

“We aren’t going to win every golf tournament, no matter how well we play,” Desimone said. “This was a really strong field. Four of the 15 teams were in the top 10, and most were veteran teams.”

Arkansas came out on top of the tournament, with Chattanooga, Oklahoma State and New Mexico following. Chattanooga led the first two days of the tournament, only succumbing to Arkansas in the final round.

Cal finished the first round in fifth, fell to sixth following the second, but fought back to edge out host and Big Ten favorite Iowa to finish in the top five. The Bears also beat a notable opponent in ACC favorite Georgia Tech, which finished in eighth.