Every competition creates a new opportunity for a team or player to rise up above the expectations that rankings elicit.
The Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters tournament will provide just that chance for the No. 10 Cal men’s golf team. The three-day tournament, which begins Friday in Las Vegas, brings together the best collegiate golf teams in the country for arguably the most intense competition outside of the NCAA championship.
After winning their third tournament of the year in Hawaii two weeks ago, the Bears are trying to win a fourth tournament in a single season for the first time in school history.
Coming off a third place finish at the Del Walker Match Play tournament last weekend, Cal is prepared to compete for its fourth tournament win of the season. Coach Steve Desimone is excited for his squad to match up against such heavy competition such as No. 1 Texas and No. 3 Alabama.
“When you look at the schedule, there are certain events that jump out of you,” Desimone said. “In the meat of the season there are two or three highlights. This is as good as it gets outside of the NCAA championship.”
The Bears beat the Crimson Tide earlier in the season and have had mixed results with other top-10 teams this season. The tournament will provide a preview for the NCAA competition that Cal hopes to take part in at the end of May.
“When you look at the field, you shake your head and say ‘Holy Toledo,’ it’s great to be a part of it,” Desimone said. “But when you’re in the top 10 and you’re playing well, you can beat anyone.”
The Bears certainly have been playing well. They also once again have a full lineup after missing two of their top golfers last weekend. Sophomore Joël Stalter will be back after missing the Del Walker tournament due to an academic conflict. Freshman Michael Kim will return after dropping a weight on his foot last week. He will benefit from the 18 holes per day format, rather than having to play 36 holes in one day.
“The doctor and trainer think (Kim’s) good enough to play,” Desimone said. “He’s eager to get back, and we don’t think there will be any further damage.”
With a full line up for the first time in more than two weeks, the single season wins record is ever on the team’s mind.
“We want to win every tournament, but it’s definitely something they’re thinking about,” Desimone said. “These guys want to accomplish something. To be the team that did that would be special. They’d have a lot of pride and sense of accomplishment if they were the team to get that fourth tournament win.”