No Cal golfers played in the Masters this past weekend in Augusta, Georgia.
The Bears, however, will face a test similar to Augusta National when they compete in the Western Intercollegiate this week starting Monday.
Both Augusta National and Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, the site of the Western Intercollegiate, were designed by Alister Mackenzie, a famous British golf course designer who constructed tracks in four different continents in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The layout of the two courses resemble each other in that both are short courses but nonetheless challenging.
“When you playa Pasatiempo, you’re definitely in for a treat,” said Cal head coach Steve Desimone. “But you’re also in for a challenge. You can’t overpower it. You have to stick to the game plan. It demands experience. Outside of Jamie Cheatham, all of the guys have played Pasatiempo. We’re playing well and we have the experience to play well this week.”
The 14-team field will play 18 holes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The No. 15 Bears go to Santa Cruz as the third-highest ranked team in the field. Stanford sits at No. 9 and USC sits at No. 1 nationally. The only other ranked team in the field is No. 21 San Diego State.
The Western Intercollegiate, established in 1947, is one of the longest running tournaments in college golf. Notable past competitors include Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Tom Watson. Cal won the event in 2013 after carding a 1051(+1) over three rounds, finishing 13 strokes in front of runner-up UCLA. That Cal team went on to win the Pac-12 Championships and ended up losing to Illinois in the NCAA Championship’s Match Play Semifinals.
Last year, Cal earned a disappointing 10th-place finish at this event, finishing 55 strokes behind Texas. Despite the weak team performance, now-senior Shotaro Ban came in third individually shooting a 68(-2) followed by a 69(-1).
This year, the team will rely on Ban again to fire low scores at Pasatiempo. Alongside Ban and Cheatham, freshman Collin Morikawa, sophomore KK Limbhasut, senior Cameron Shaw and sophomore Sebastian Crampton will round out the Cal lineup. Desimone says he likes what he has seen out of the always-consistent Limbhasut and expects him to lead the way in Santa Cruz.
“(Limbhasut) has had a phenomenal week. He just tore it up,” Desimone said. “He’s been very impressive. He looks like he’s on quite the roll. We hope he keeps the momentum going.”
Cal enters the tournament coming off a second-place finish at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, ultimately losing to Iowa State by one stroke. Limbhasut and Cheatham earned third and ninth place individual honors at the invitational, respectively. After a week of practice rounds that kept the Bears’ games fine-tuned, the team hopes its high-quality play will transfer to Pasatiempo this week.
Alex Heuer covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected]