Bears to tee off on Palmer course at Hawaii tournament

The Cal men’s golf team is off to paradise this week as the squad begins its second tournament of the year. The team will play in the John A. Burns Intercollegiate tournament in Kuhuku, Hawaii Wednesday through Friday.

“This tournament has become a tradition for us,” coach Steve Desimone said. “We have a good history here, we’ve played in this tournament for 15 years.”

The tournament, hosted by University of Hawaii, will be played at the Turtle Bay Resort. The renowned resort is famous for its two golf courses designed by architect George Fazio and golfing legend Arnold Palmer. The “Palmer Course,” on which this tournament will be played, was ranked one of the top 100 golf courses in the U.S. by Golf Digest.

The No. 10 Bears will try to defend their tournament win from a year ago against an 18-team field that includes No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 14 UNLV, No. 17 Duke and No. 25 New Mexico.

“The tournament has a solid field of teams, but not a great field,” coach Desimone said. “Texas A&M, UNLV, Duke, and New Mexico are a pretty solid field. Arizona will be there too, which is great, since they beat us last time.”

The Bears are coming off a second place finish at the Arizona Intercollegiate tournament Jan. 30-31, which they lost by only a single stroke to the Wildcats. The Bears began that tournament with a strong showing through the first 36 holes before settling into a two stroke deficit at the end of the first day of competition. On the second and final day, the Bears were unable to overcome the Wildcats’ lead despite strong performances from sophomores Joël Stalter and Brandon Hagy, who finished tied for fifth place on the individual leader board.

Before a practice round Monday at the Turtle Bay Resort, Desimone said that “there’s heavy wind, but it looks pretty damn good.” However, the weather forecast isn’t promising for the week. With a 30 percent chance of rain, the golfers could be subject to a few delays.

Desimone is looking for strong performances from junior Max Homa, the co-champion of last year’s event, and freshman Michael Kim.

“Michael is one of the best young amateurs in the country, and Max is playing really well right now,” Desimone said.

Desimone thinks that his team is starting to pull together in its chase for a national championship.

“Obviously, the number one goal is to win a NCAA championship,” he said. “We need to be sure to take the proper steps. First we need to get to regionals, and then we’ll focus on a championship. We’ve taken the first steps, now we just have to continue.”

The Bears will play in five more tournaments before the Pac-12 championship tournament April 27-29 in Corvallis, Ore.