The saying “everything’s bigger in Texas” took on a whole new meaning for Cal men’s golfer KK Limbhasut, who played Sunday what has been, so far, the most important round of his collegiate career at the Lone Star State’s Aggie Invitational. The freshman was the only player in a field of 78 competitors to finish the event under-par, earning him his first tournament win since joining the team this season.
“I’m not surprised,” said head coach Steve Desimone to Cal Athletics. “He’s had a tremendous spring, and the beat goes on.”
This is the second year in a row that a Cal player has received medalist honors at the Aggie Invitational: The 2014 champion was current PGA Tour member Brandon Hagy. In addition, Limbhasut is the first freshman on the squad to win an individual title at a tournament since 2002. He joins teammates Cameron Shaw and Shotaro Ban as the Bears’ tournament titleholders of the 2014-15 season.
“It is a relief to know that I’m working towards the right direction,” Limbhasut told Cal Athletics. “Winning this tournament also gave me confidence for upcoming tournaments.”
After sinking eight birdies in his first two rounds Saturday, Limbhasut entered the final round of the tournament Sunday tied for second place at two-under-par. Holding fast at only one stroke behind Texas A&M’s Ben Crancer, Limbhasut swiftly made his way to the head of the leaderboard after birdieing the par-five 10th and 15th holes and the par-four 14th hole. A couple of ensuing bogies on the par-four 17th and 18th holes were evened out by birdies on the par-four first and third holes.
Limbhasut’s perfomance started to lag later in the day as he approached the back-nine. He shot two bogeys on the par-five fifth and par-three seventh holes, followed by a double bogey on the par-four ninth hole. This diminished his impressive five-stroke lead, but he was able to stay on top of the leaderboard using the large margin of error it had given him.
“Fortunately, I had enough room to make some mistakes coming down the end,” Limbhasut said.
As a team, the Bears did not fare quite as well as their champion player, with the team closing out the event in seventh place with a combined score of 42-over-par. The next Cal player on the leaderboard was Ban in 29th place, followed by Alexander Wilson, Ben Doyle and Sebastian Crampton, who tied for 48th, 50th and 55th, respectively.
Oklahoma emerged victorious in the team championship at 20-over-par after breaking a three-way tie for first place in the final round, claiming the title from last year’s winners Texas A&M and LSU.
“I was disappointed in the finish, but overall, it was a good learning experience for us,” Desimone said. “It was very similar to an NCAA regional competition, with lots of travel, a short time frame and an unfamiliar golf course.”
The Aggie Invitational was the second in a string of extremely competitive tournaments in which the Bears have participated since reaching the tail end of the season. Considering the resilient manner in which freshmen players such as Limbhausut have responded to the increasing tempo of the competition, the team’s outlook for the coming challenges seems positive, to say the least.
Tanner Simmonds covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].