Weekend tourney important step in path to NCAA Championships

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Steve Desimone does not like to tell his players that any one match is more important than the other. But the head coach of the No. 3 Cal men’s golf team does acknowledge that the upcoming ASU Thunderbird Invitational could be significant in terms of momentum going forward.

The team tees off on Friday, facing some of the top teams in the nation at ASU Karsten Golf Course through Saturday. The Bears expect to see UNLV, Washington, New Mexico and San Diego State in the national championships, an important step in their preparation for the ultimate goal of winning a national title.

“We have played well at just about every level we have played at so far,” Desimone said. “We are at the point where we want to build and go forward, not take steps back.”

These are opponents and a course with which Cal is familiar, and it hopes to use its experience to its advantage. Two of the starters — Max Homa and Brandon Hagy — have competed at the course, and the coach has coached there for over a decade.

Regardless of experience, though, Desimone feels that his team has a great shot at winning the invitational as long it sticks to its game plan.

“Our plan here is very simple in that we are going to keep the ball in play at pretty much all costs,” Desimone said. “There are a few punitive holes that could completely derail a round for a team, and we want to avoid those.”

What the coach referred to are the four holes of the course on which he has advised his players to play defensively. They involve water and other similar obstructions that could easily throw off someone’s game.

“I told them, on this course, to not be afraid of hitting it away from the flag or from the greens,” Desimone said. “You have got to manage your game and sometimes that can put you into a decent position.”

The coaching staff is reinforcing the importance of managing the game for each golfer. Desimone believes that if Cal stays consistent, this lineup could defeat all of the other schools in the field.

UNLV, a very formidable opponent that already beat the Bears in Las Vegas in March, will look to stop Cal’s recent dominance and improve on its No. 5 ranking. Another tough team will be No. 7 Washington led by Chris Williams, No. 14 individually in the nation. Cal will see the Huskies again in the Pac-12 Championships in three weeks.

Right now, Desimone is only looking for consistency from his players to help train for the later tournaments such as the Pac-12 Championship and the NCAA Championships. His squad is coming off of a two-week break and will look to get off the bat with a strong showing against some of the top teams.

“We are itching and eager to get back to playing,” Desimone said. “When you have had a great year like we have, you have a shot at the grand prize and we feel like we have a real chance.”

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