There typically are no true home tournaments in golf, but Cal men’s golf will have the rare opportunity to host the Alister Mackenzie Invitational at the Meadow Club in Fairfax on Monday and Tuesday.
“Anytime you host, you have higher expectations. Whether it’s being at home in football or at Haas Pavilion for basketball, there is a little extra pressure because you have to perform in front of your home fans,” said Cal head coach Steve Desimone. “With that, we’re very comfortable with the course. We’ve won the Mackenzie the last five years.”
The two-day, 54-hole event will feature 16 teams, including fourth-ranked Arizona State. Senior Jon Rahm, the No. 2 ranked amateur in the world, leads the charge for the Sun Devils.
The Bears will need low scores out of sophomore KK Limbhasut, the team’s most consistent player, according to Desimone. Limbhasut played in an amateur event in Hong Kong last week, so he missed the Nick Watney Invitational in Fresno. Despite the thousands of miles of travel, Limbhasut likes where his game is.
“Recently I’ve been hitting the ball very well. I’m hitting a lot of fairways and greens,” Limbhasut said. “I have (had) a lot of opportunities to make birdies. Putting and ball striking will be key this week.”
In addition to Limbhasut, freshman Collin Morikawa has emerged onto the scene after tying for sixth place last week at the Fresno event, marking his third consecutive top-20 finish. Morikawa fired three rounds in the 60s (67,69,69) totaling a 205, good for -8.
“My ball striking from fairway to green is solid right now,” Morikawa said. “My short game has to improve if I want to get into the winning circle. I have to make up and downs when I need them the most.”
Desimone is pleasantly surprised with the success of his two freshmen, Morikawa and Jamie Cheatham.
“Jumping from junior golf to elite, college golf is a quantum leap,” Desimone said. “The travel and the way the game is played changes and the courses get harder. Their development won’t change in a day and it’ll take some time. We have to be patient and work on what we need to work on.”
Morikawa, on the other hand, feels ready for the big stage that is top-level college golf.
“Over the summer, I played tough amateur tournaments with the best college players,” Morikawa said. “I put myself in conditions that make it a lot harder than junior golf. Coming in, I’ve been expecting to win but I have more work to do.”
In Fresno, the Bears finished third out of 13 with St. Mary’s winning the tournament and Fresno State taking second place. In addition to Morikawa, the team’s score consisted of the scores of sophomore Sebastian Crampton and senior Shotaro Ban who tied for 18th as individuals. Cheatham rounded out the four scores as he tied for 24th.
“The guys hit the ball pretty well. But we stopped making putts in round two and especially in the third round,” Desimone said. “If you’re going to score well, you have to putt well. It was a good effort and I can’t ask for much more than that.”
The Bears have finished in the top five at every tournament this season. Prior to Fresno, they won the Inverness Intercollegiate in Ohio and placed second at the Gopher Invitational in Minnesota, Sept. 13 to Sept. 14. The team will look to keep the ball rolling with a win at the Meadow Club this week.
Alex Heuer covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected]