Cal men’s golf takes first place at NIT

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From who shot the best round to who scored the most birdies, golf is one collegiate sport that often focuses on the individual over the team. For No. 3 Cal men’s golf (268, 281, 282, -33) it was the collective effort of all five teammates that earned the Bears their sixth season title and first-place finish at the National Invitational Tournament in Tucson, Ariz., over the weekend.

“This week was definitely a team win,” said head coach Steve Desimone. “Everyone contributed for at least two solid rounds.”

In the three-day, 54-hole event, the Bears finished each day with a different player on top of the leaderboard. Seniors Brandon Hagy, Michael Weaver and Joel Stalter traded spots at No. 1 throughout the tournament, before Stalter finally took the individual first-place finish Sunday afternoon at 11-under-par.

The Bears dominated the 14-team competition in Arizona, placing 15 strokes ahead of Southern Methodist University and No. 2 Oklahoma State, who tied for second. They controlled the par-72, 2,700-yard course with relative ease throughout the three days, never once letting go of the lead after the first round and extending the stroke difference to as high as 16 after the second.

Matched with excellent weather conditions and slight winds, the Bears capitalized with strong putting early in the tournament that put them on top.

“We made an awful lot of putts that first day,” Desimone said. “It held up very nicely.”

The Bears came out onto the green for the first round Friday morning with their clubs blazing. In those first 18 holes, the Bears demonstrated their depth as a team with each individual player finishing the first round under par and in the top 11. The Bears, as a team, finished the day 20-under-par, 13 strokes ahead of their next competitor and amassing a total of 34 birdies.

No. 4 Hagy (64-77-68) put up one of his strongest performances of the season Friday, going 8-under-par for the day and posting a superb score of 64, matching his lowest round score of the season. Hagy ruled the competition by simply making putt after putt, which led to him birdying every single par-5 hole of the course on Friday.

Another contributing factor toward the win was fellow senior and first-place winner Stalter (68-71-66), who had a terrific three-day tournament culminating in a 6-under-par, eight-birdie performance Sunday.

“It was a day where everything was pretty much going my way,” Stalter said.

Stalter had played nearly perfectly Sunday when he came up against the last two holes of the tournament, a tricky par-3 17th and par-4 18th. Like many golfers, Stalter struggled to close out the win.

“It was kind of hard finishing those last two holes, especially the 18th,” Stalter said. “I hit kind of a bad shot; it was a trick hole in the water … It was pretty stressful at the end, even though I had a two-shot lead.”

The Bears’ terrific play comes as a much-needed win for a team that fell to a disappointing eighth-place finish in their last tournament in Las Vegas.

“We really wanted to bounce back,” Stalter said. “And I think we did it with an exclamation point.

Christine Menchaca covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected]

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