Cal men’s golf improves play but finish remains the same at Alister MacKenzie Invitational

mGolf_Casey ValentineSLASH ISI Photos_courtesy
Casey Valentine/ISI Photos/Courtesy

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Cal men’s golf finished eighth at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational with an 835 (-17), its lowest total score in any tournament but its third straight eighth place this season.

The Bears ended the first two rounds with solid performances by each player. Redshirt freshman William Aldred and redshirt senior Walker Huddy posted scores of 143 (+1) and tied for 52nd, redshirt sophomore Ben Doyle shot a 141 (-1) to tie for 37th and sophomore Tanner Hughes posted a very strong score of 138 (-4), tying for 22nd.

Sophomore Collin Morikawa, Cal’s star player this season, posted an extremely low score — in fact, the lowest score of his collegiate career — of 133 (-9). After 10 birdies, three bogeys and five even-par holes, Morikawa ended the first round with a spectacular 64 (-7), leaving him in second place, just one shot behind the leader. But Morikawa stumbled a little after his previous record-setting round, ending the second round with a solid 69 (-2), dropping him three places behind the leader, to sixth, because of a three-way tie for third.

As strong as No. 25 Cal’s performance was, the competition’s was stronger, and the Bears ended up in ninth place. While Cal posted a score of 553 (-15), the best two rounds that the Bears have had all season, teams such as unranked Pepperdine and St. Mary’s, who were tied for first, posted scores of 544 (-24). But Cal was only nine strokes behind first place at the end of the second round, giving the Bears a very real chance to move up the rankings the next day.

“Playing well in the first and second round are always beneficial going into the last day because you have momentum on your side,” Morikawa said. “It simply helped me know that whatever I was doing on Monday would help me again on Tuesday as long as I stuck to my game plan.”

The third and final round saw Cal move up, but only by one place. The players, who had strong games in the first two rounds, seemed to slip in the third. Huddy posted a 76 (+5) and tied for 67th, Aldred a 74 (+3) and tied for 56th and Doyle a 72 (+1) and tied for 40th. Hughes still played a solid round with a 70 (-1), the same as his second-round score, and ended up tying for 18th.

Morikawa shot another incredible round, posting a 66 (-5) after five birdies on the first, third, 10th, 12th and 16th holes, bringing his total score to a 199 (-14), his collegiate career low. Morikawa ended up with his season-best finish in third place, just one stroke behind the two leaders tied for first, Ki Taek Lee of Arizona State and Conner Kumpula of Oregon State.

“I was only one shot off the lead and to know that my game is progressing and giving myself chances to win is very exciting,” Morikawa said. “Looking at the score after the tournament has finished, I’m glad I was able to beat my previous low score and look forward to keep going lower.”

Four other Cal players, redshirt juniors Stephen Griggs and Alexander Wilson, Alex Helgans and Clayton Madey competed in the tournament as individuals, so their results did not factor into the Bears’ final score. Griggs, Madey and Doyle tied for 40th, Helgans tied for 71st and Wilson tied for 18th with Hughes.

“It will be awesome if we can turn this season around; we have had some tough breaks so far that we’ve had trouble overcoming,” Hughes said. “(But) individually, I was happy with my play; a top 20 is always respectable. I drove the ball pretty well and hit a lot of good iron shots into the greens.”

Unfortunately for the Bears, their disappointing eighth-place finish will likely drop them from the rankings, especially since unranked Arizona State, which was recently dropped, won the invitational. Still, head coach Walter Chun is hopeful going forward in the season.

“We need to keep growing as a team and learning from our mistakes and improving on our weaknesses,” Chun said. “College golf is so deep across the country, and to compete, we have to just keep getting better.”

Maya Rao covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected]

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