Cal men’s golf takes on 13-team field at Nick Watney Invitational

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Coming off a first-place finish at the Inverness Invitational last week, Cal is entering the Nick Watney Invitational this week looking to continue its high-quality play.

The team will travel to Fresno for a 54-hole event at the Fort Washington Country Club, beginning with two rounds Monday and a final 18 holes Tuesday. The course measures 6,741 yards and will play at par 71.

Coming into the event, the team understands which parts of its game need the most work.

“The short game and putting must improve,” said Cal head coach Steve Desimone. “We’re sloppy in some areas that need to be improved. The guys understand that, and we’ve discussed it.”

The players acknowledge these areas of weakness and understand the importance of improving these aspects of the game if they want to score low in Fresno.

“I want to work on putting and driving,” said sophomore Sebastian Crampton. “If I can get those things down, it’s going to be a good week.”

Cal will compete against a 13-team field this weekend, including host Fresno State, Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount, UC Santa Barbara and Sacramento State. Cal sits as the highest-ranked team in the field, with Pacific, Saint Mary’s and San Diego all making Statcast’s top-100-teams ranking as well.

Previously called the Fresno State Lexus Classic, the school changed the name to the Nick Watney Invitational prior to the 2014 contest. The event is named after Nick Watney, a PGA Golfer who played for the Bull Dogs from 2000-03. At Fresno State, he earned All-American honors three times and won the WAC Freshman of the Year award in 2000, followed by the WAC Player of the Year from 2001-03.

Last year, Pacific won the inaugural event at the Sunnyside Country Club, firing off an astonishing team score of -26. All-American Byron Meth led the Tigers in the tournament, finishing with a -10 over the three rounds. Meth graduated to begin his professional career, and Pacific has felt the loss. It has finished 13th and 15th out of 15 in its first two events: the Saint Mary’s Invitational and the Golfweek Conference Challenge.

Cal did not participate in the 2014 tournament but comes into the 2015 contest on a roll.

At the Inverness Intercollegiate from Sept. 21-22, Cal emerged victorious out of the 15-team field. The Bears fired an 877, +25, at the historic Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. Sophomore K.K. Limbhasut led the charge, finishing the 54 holes at a 217, +4 followed by freshman Collin Morikawa and Crampton who shot +6 and +8, respectively. Desimone was impressed with the play of the two freshmen, Morikawa and Jamie Cheatham.

“Collin’s three under in the third round was big,” Desimone said. “Jamie contributed two solid rounds in Minnesota (from Sept. 13-14), and he contributed two more (at Inverness). (The) freshmen are growing nicely as players, and I expect them to grow even more as the season continues.”

Alex Heuer covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected]