The Cal men’s golf team carded 833(-19) strokes over three rounds at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational in Tempe, Arizona, this past weekend. Just one ultimately separated the Bears from the tournament title.
Iowa State redshirt sophomore Denzel Ieremia rolled in a par putt on the last hole of the tournament at Karsten Golf Course to bring the team’s 54-hole total to 832(-20) and secure the victory for the Cyclones.
“There’s always that one shot that makes you think it gave the tournament away,” said Cal freshman Jamie Cheatham. “Losing by one stroke is obviously pretty brutal.”
Plagued by injury up until the end of spring break, Cheatham broke out at the ASU Thunderbird. Cheatham’s three round total of 209(-4) earned him ninth place individually. Cheatham triple-bogeyed his second hole of the tournament, but he quickly recovered and managed to string together four birdies to conclude round one finishing with a 73(+2) to keep him in the hunt.
Cheatham found his groove in round two Saturday afternoon. In a clean round with no bogeys, his four birdies brought his two-day total to 140(-2). He wrapped up with four more birdies to finish the event with a 69(-2) Sunday.
“I played smart golf and didn’t bring any big numbers into play,” Cheatham said. “After that triple-bogey on just my second hole, I told myself that I’m capable of making birdies and I did. I was stroking the ball with confidence. My swing was there.”
A freshman from Rancho Santa Fe, California — just outside San Diego — Cheatham came to Cal having not competed in elite amateur events like many of his teammates. Cheatham started his fall campaign in the starting lineup but suffered an injury in early October that sidelined him for most of the fall season. He returned to action in late January at the Arizona Intercollegiate in Tucson but quickly fell out of the hunt after a first-round 81(+10). This career-best finish early into his campaign at Cal could be just what he needs to propel his college career.
“Jamie is learning that he can be a major contributor to this team. I’m proud of the way he finished at the Karsten,” said Cal head coach Steve Desimone. “He played great golf and it was fun watching him. But this isn’t a surprise. He’s a really good player.”
Sophomore KK Limbhasut, who has the second lowest scoring average for the Bears this season, led the way in Tempe. Limbhasut strung together three rounds of under par golf to finish the tournament in third place individually with a 54-hole score of 203(-10).
The tournament operated in shotgun fashion, meaning that golfers started rounds on the middle of the course and not on the first or 10th hole as events normally do. Cal started its first round of the Thunderbird on the hardest stretch of holes at Karsten, which dug the team into a deep hole. Every Cal golfer played their first nine holes at or over par besides Limbhasut, who was unfazed by Karsten and finished his first nine holes with four birdies.
“It’s a very fair golf course. I realized you don’t get penalized if you hit a bad shot,” Limbhasut said. “Unlike many golf courses that we played before this, I could literally almost hit it anywhere and be fine. I took advantage of that. I putted very well, which allowed me to convert a lot of birdies and made only five bogeys.”
Alex Heuer covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected]