It was past noon on a picturesque Sunday at the Peg Barnard Invitational tournament at Stanford Golf Course. The thermostat said 63 degrees, but it felt more like 80 as Cal freshman Lucia Gutierrez eyed the line of her putt. It was long — more than 50 feet — and it was also downhill. Gutierrez, with all the professionalism and confidence of a golfer beyond her years, stepped up to the ball. She pulls back, she taps it, she sinks it — beautiful birdie.
Gutierrez’s sixth-hole birdie was just one of many this past weekend that helped push the Cal women’s golf team (300-295, +27) to a fourth-place finish in the 14-team Peg Barnard Invitational. It was a comeback effort for the Bears, who started the morning in eighth place after shooting 17 over par in their first round.
Heavily favored No. 5 Stanford (287-283, +2) won the two-day, 36-hole tournament handily, with UC Davis coming up far behind in second place (291-295, +18).
Cal’s greatest strength all weekend was Gutierrez, who finished even par at 142 and tied for sixth individually.
Gutierrez, capitalizing on her great play during the offseason in the South American Amateurs, finished the first 18 holes two under at 69 and tied for first on Saturday. The freshman navigated the two-day tournament playing steadily and confidently, rarely shying away from the long drive in order to score birdies, which she did three consecutive times on the fifth, sixth and seventh holes in the first round.
“Lucia played solid the whole way through,” said head coach Nancy McDaniel to Cal Athletics. “A sixth-place finish is really good for us.”
Senior Nicola Rossler (78-71, +7) also did her part in the Bears’ comeback by catapulting from a 49th-place finish on Saturday to finish the tournament tied for 17th, including scoring four birdies and going even for par in the second round.
However, Gutierrez and Rossler were the only Bears to finish in the top 20 individually with sophomore Hannah Suh finishing 28th and teammates Carly Childs and Morgan Thompson both tying for 42nd.
With the exception of Gutierrez, the first day of the tournament started off roughly for the Bears. Saturday was cold and overcast in Stanford, and the Bears played coldly to match the weather. Rossler, usually Cal’s strongest player, suffered greatly during the first round and finished the first 18 holes with five bogeys and two double bogeys. Childs, Suh and Thompson also struggled, all three finishing well over par in the first round.
For the second round of play on Sunday, however, the sun came out shining with Rossler recovering from her dismal start on Saturday to post even par and sophomore Childs improving her score by two in the second round.
Although the Bears were not favored to win the tournament over Stanford they were ranked as one of the top contenders and expected to finish higher than fourth. This fourth place does not seem to satisfy the Bears and has left them hungry for the next tournament.
“It’s not where we want to be, but it’s a step in the right direction after yesterday,” McDaniel said to Cal Athletics. “Yesterday was a wake-up call. They got going, and we were happy about that. I’m happy that we have a tournament in a couple of weeks, and we’ll maintain that flow of competition and be ready to play when it really counts.”
Contact Christina Menchaca at [email protected].