Homa sinks dramatic birdie putt to give Cal share of tourney title

Twenty-five feet is almost nothing in most sports.

But in golf — a sport in which the ball is about 1.7 inches in diameter and the cup is 4.25 inches long — 25 feet is a significant expanse.

On Tuesday, it was the difference between a title and a not-quite-enough second place finish.

Max Homa’s ball sat there, on an uphill lie 25 feet from the cup with a tournament riding on its destination.

“Max knew he had to make it for us to finish first,” coach Steve Desimone said. “Damn it if Max didn’t drill that thing right into the heart of the hole.”

Homa made the putt, securing a victory for the No. 19 Cal men’s golf team at Tuesday’s conclusion of the Alister MacKenzie Invitational at the Meadow Club in Fairfax, Calif. Following Homa’s putt, Oregon’s Eugene Wong sunk a six-foot birdie putt to secure his team a share of the championship.

“I knew it was close all day, but I didn’t know the actual numbers,” Homa said. “As I was walking down to my tee shot on 18, we got word that Michael (Kim) got a birdie and we were even. I knew that a birdie from me would win it.”

With this win, the Bears clinched a three-peat in their annual home event and the No. 2 Ducks secured their third win of the season. Perhaps good things really do come in threes.

“This was one of the most exciting tournaments I’ve ever seen,” Desimone said. “It was as dramatic as you can get. No one had any misgivings about calling it a co-championship. It would have been a shame if either team had lost.”

While several of the 14 other teams were in position to pounce on the top spot, the primary battle took place between Cal and Oregon. The Bears got off to a slow start, finishing the first round in fourth place. However, they bounced back that afternoon with a 17-under par second round to finish Monday in second place behind the Ducks.

The Bears then went on to shoot a 13-under final round on Tuesday to pick up the final two strokes to tie with Oregon. San Diego State finished in third after falling off the lead toward the end of the final round.

Homa earned a second place individual finish, five strokes behind Wong, the No. 11-ranked individual in the nation. Cal’s freshman standout Michael Kim matched Oregon’s freshman Rak Cho with a 12-under par overall performance to finish tied for third.

In the second round, Kim shot eagle, birdie, eagle over holes 13, 14 and 15 to drive Cal into second place before heading into the third round.

“That was probably the best stretch of three holes in the history of the program,” Desimone said.

Kim shot a five-under 66 in the final round and birdied his last hole to get the Bears in a position to win with only Homa’s final hole remaining.

And we know how that turned out.

“Max’s 25-footer was the stuff of legend,” Desimone said. “People who witnessed it will be talking about it for a long time. People will not forget what they saw at the end of that 18th green. That was golf at its purest and golf at its highest.”