Short-handed Bears take third at Long Beach tournament

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The Cal men’s golf team will have to wait another week to celebrate.

The No. 10 Bears finished in third place at the Del Walker Match Play Tournament in Long Beach, Calif., on Tuesday, falling short of breaking the school record of three tournament wins in the same year.

The match play tournament, held at the par-70, 6,633-yard Virginia Country Club, consisted of two matches per team on Monday and one on Tuesday. The Bears won the first game on Monday, besting No. 6 Oregon in the opening match. The Bears then fell to No. 7 Washington in the afternoon contest. The squad bounced back to finish the tournament with a win, besting Oregon State 4-1 on Tuesday.

Max Homa led the team on the final day. The junior began strong by winning the first four holes, with birdies on both the first and fourth holes. He battled the next 12 holes with the Beavers’ Alex Moore, who won an individual medal at the 2011 Pac-10 championship. But Homa was too strong for Moore to overcome, as the Cal junior birdied on the 17th hole to clinch the victory.

No. 5 UCLA won the tournament, followed by Washington. Despite not winning their fourth tournament of the year, the Bears continued a streak of seven top-five finishes.

“Our performance over the last two days continues to show how good this team is,” said Cal coach Steve Desimone. “Overall, the quality of play was very good, and it was a nice run.”

The Bears were missing two of their top golfers at the competition. Freshman Michael Kim was unavailable after dropping a weight on his foot late last week. Joël Stalter did not travel with the team because of an academic conflict.

Senior Jeff Hamm and Freshman Keelan Kilpatrick were both participating in only their second tournament of the season. Desimone felt that his team was deep enough to compete without its full lineup.

“We felt all along that we had seven players who were clearly ready to play,” Desimone said. “That was certainly validated over the last couple of days. These guys did a great job. Gaining experience for these guys was really good. This was a good time to get these guys in competition.”

Kilpatrick, a native of New Zealand, is no stranger to match play. While the team was competing in only the second match play tournament in its history, Kilpatrick felt comfortable with the format.

“It probably gave me some advantage to have the experience I do in match play,” Kilpatrick said. “It’s unfamiliar territory to a lot of college golfers, so that probably helped me a bit.”

Despite only placing third, the Bears proved that they are a deep and complete team moving towards the NCAA finals.

“We know going forward we’ve got seven guys that have proven they can be very competitive at this level,” Desimone said, “and if we need them we’ll use them.”

The Bears will return to action March 9-11 at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters at the Southern Highlands Golf Club in Las Vegas. The tournament, which will be played in the normal stroke play fashion, famously sports a field of top teams year after year.