Seventy-two holes were not enough to decide the Pac-12 golf championship — neither were 73.
But after three days, four rounds, and two sudden death holes, a winner was finally crowned.
The No. 8 Bears beat No. 7 Oregon in the second round of a sudden death playoff Sunday afternoon to complete a dramatic comeback and win their first conference title in school history at the Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis, Ore.
“You don’t win a tournament like this without doing a lot of things right,” head coach Steve Desimone said.“
The Bears came into the final day of competition trailing the Ducks by six strokes. After the Bears finished the final round of the tournament with a score of -4 and the Ducks faltered with a +2 on the day, the two squads were stuck tied for first.
Sophomore Brandon Hagy capped off the Bears’ comeback with a 25-foot birdie on the 18th hole to force the tournament to a playoff.
After both teams finished in the last group of golfers alongside No. 3 UCLA, the first round of sudden death had the teams right back on the par-4, No. 18 hole. Each team sent two golfers at a time for the final hole.
In the first overtime round, Cal freshman Keelan Kilpatrick and senior Jeff Hamm struggled, with a double bogey and bogey respectively. Pars from the remaining four Bears and a double bogey from Oregon senior Andrew Vijerro set the stage for a second overtime.
For the second round, the teams moved to the Par-4, No. 16 hole. Kilpatrick started the Bears off with a bogey, but was followed by four consecutive pars before Hagy finished off the Bears’ win with a birdie on the final hole of the season.
The Ducks were unable to recover from Vijerro’s blunder in the first overtime round and scored two bogies and two double-bogies on the last hole.
The Bears were ten strokes behind the Ducks as late as the 17th hole of the third round. The team played the final two holes Saturday at six under par, compared to the Ducks two under par, cutting the deficit to six strokes going into the final day of competition.
“I think a lot of the momentum from yesterday carried over,” Desimone said. “We felt last night that picking up 6 shots on the last two holes put us in a good position.”
Hagy finished Saturday’s round with the best score of his collegiate career, a six under par score of 66, to set the Bears up for the comeback on Sunday.
For the Bears, the conference championship is a welcome addition to what has already become one of the best seasons in school history. The conference tournament win was the Bears’ fifth of the season, after Cal broke their previous season record of three wins at the end of March.
“Wherever we wind up in the post season, we’ll be ready,” Desimone said. “But right now, that Pac-12 trophy looks pretty damn good.”