Bears look forward to competitive conference championship

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The Cal men’s golf team is already the winningest in school history. For the next month, the team will look to solidify itself as the best Bears’ golf team ever.

The Bears head into this weekend’s Pac-12 Championship tournament with high hopes. The No. 8 Bears will be up against five other Top-25 teams at the Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis, Ore. The Friday through Sunday competition promises to be a close competition for the Bears against the strongest conference in men’s golf. Six of the top eight teams in the country come from the Pac-12.

“The field is great,” veteran head coach Steve Desimone said. “All teams are capable of winning. I always look forward to the conference championships, no doubt about that.”

After some deliberation over the last few weeks, Desimone finally settled on his six-man roster earlier this week.

The number one slot will belong to Michael Kim. The freshman has been a better newcomer than the Bears expected. Kim has adjusted quickly to the demands of collegiate competition and become one of the most consistent golfers on the team, especially since coming back from a foot injury in the beginning of March.

Sophomore Brandon Hagy and Junior Max Homa will follow in the second and third positions, respectively. The duo has led the team all year in the first two spots with Kim usually following as number three.

The final three positions were a basis of uncertainty for the team heading into the final leg of the season. The addition of two freshmen to the mix has forced seven golfers to compete for six spots throughout the season.

Those positions will be filled by senior Jeff Ham, freshman Keenan Kilpatrick, and sophomore Joël Stalter. Junior transfer Pace Johnson was passed over after having his name in the running for the last month.

“We chose the most consistent guys,” Desimone said. “Joel has not been playing great lately, but we thought we would make him work a little bit. The three guys we chose were the best. It was a very close decision.”

Desimone thinks that his team will fit the course well. The course has gotten a lot of rain recently and will be wet. This will mean that the fairly short course will play much longer than its actual yardage as the balls will bounce less and be less accurate.

“The conditions will dictate the play,” Desimone said. “Weather will be a big issue.”

The rough is long on the Oregon State home course, so keeping the ball on the fairway will be vital to keeping scores low.

Desimone will not say yet if this is the best team he has ever coached, but he is confident in its ability.

“These guys have played well all year,” Desimone said. “This is the best team we’ve had all season. When this team wins a ring we can talk about it being the best team.”

The Bears have the chance to prove that they are the best team this weekend. The six top-25 teams are so close in talent level that this competition is sure to leave the Bears no margin for error.

“I like our chances,” said Desimone, “but any of these six teams could run away with it.”

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