The Cal women’s golf team began its fall season with its most challenging tournament and concludes the season with one of similar caliber. The team enters the SEC/Pac-12 Challenge on Oct. 21-23 in its final tournament until February, looking to improve on its 16th rank.
The SEC/Pac-12 Challenge was introduced last year to the Stanford Golf Course because of the high level of play of both conferences. The tournament heads to the SEC this year to the Holston Hills Golf Course in Knoxville, Tenn., and highlights teams such as UCLA, USC, Alabama, LSU and Stanford.
“This is a major tournament for us, because it really sets the ranking for when we come back in the spring,” coach Nancy McDaniel said. “It also lets us put into play what we have been practicing.”
After the Bears’ recent disappointing third place finish at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational, McDaniel and her team worked hard on improving one main aspect of the game that cost it a victory previously.
“We have really been working on closing out our rounds,” McDaniel said. “Here, the last four holes of each round are going to be crucial for us.”
All of the players had trouble closing out their rounds at Cal’s last tournament, with three players hitting the ball into the bunker on the last hole. McDaniel resolved to address the varying issues plaguing the team, which she said included just about every aspect of the game.
That includes the short game, something the Bears have prided themselves on, not just this year but also in years past. Last year, the Bears ranked No. 1 in their short game, which includes the more minor parts of the game such as chipping and putting.
“It’s really about staying focused and playing well, and finishing the season out on a strong note,” senior Joanne Lee said.
Lee was Cal’s top performer at its last tournament, finishing fifth overall. This is Lee’s last season competing for Cal, and she knows the importance of this tournament.
“We have a rivalry with the other teams in the Pac-12, even though its supposed to be with the SEC,” Lee said. “These are basically the best teams, so we just have to play our best.”
Finishing tournaments, or even rounds, has not been the Bears’ strength this year, which is a big reason for the extra training and practice that went into this tournament.
McDaniel knows that if her squad performs well at this tournament, it could very well change the dynamic of the season, both in terms of rankings and confidence.
“After this, we have a long layoff so that they can be normal students and focus and their academics and rest,” McDaniel said. “Before that, though, we really want to end this fall season the right way, because we are a better team than we have shown.”