Depleted roster leads to last place finish for Cal men’s golf

Casey Valentine/ISI Photos/Courtesy

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Without its four best players, including this season’s star, sophomore Collin Morikawa, who made his PGA debut at the Safeway Open this past weekend, Cal men’s golf finished in last place at the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational, held from Oct. 16 to Oct. 18 at the Isleworth Golf & Country Club in Florida.

“It’s disappointing to not have a better showing at Isleworth, but when you don’t have your top four players from last year’s top-10 nationally ranked team, you have to deal with the cards dealt to you,” said Cal head coach Walter Chun in an email.

In addition to Morikawa being out this tournament, sophomore Jamie Cheatham has been out all season because of injury. Juniors KK Limbhasut and Sebastian Crampton are redshirting this season to focus on getting into Cal’s Haas School of Business.

The Bears opened the Invitational in 15th place, with a score of 310 (+22), finishing behind every team in the tournament, far behind first-place Florida and Purdue, which shot 283 (-5).

Redshirt freshman William Aldred and sophomore Tanner Hughes posted Cal’s lowest individual scores, tying for 53rd with scores of 76 (+4). Freshman Devin Hua made his collegiate debut at the tournament, shooting a 77 (+5), thus tying him for 58th. The two remaining Bears, redshirt junior Alexander Wilson, who made the lineup for the first time since spring 2015, and redshirt sophomore Ben Doyle shot an 81 (+9) and 85 (+13), respectively, placing them at 73rd and 75th.

Despite reducing its stroke count from 310 on Sunday to 304 on Monday, Cal remained in last place at the end of the second round, with a 614 (+38). Florida, on the other hand, out-shot every other team to post a very low 560 (-16), nine strokes ahead of Vanderbilt in second place and 13 strokes ahead of Purdue, which dropped to third.

Hughes, who once again posted a 76 (+4), remained Cal’s top player, tying with Hua for 56th. Hua posted a 75 (+3), the best round the Bears had on the second day. Aldred shot 77 (+5), dropping him to 62nd, while Doyle drastically improved, shooting a 76 (+4) to keep him at 73rd. Wilson posted an 82 (+10) but still remained at 75th.

Still, Cal’s overall improvement in the second round gave the Bears hope heading into the third round.

That hope, however, was misplaced.

Cal shot an abysmal 317 (+29), ending the invitational with a 931 (+67), its worst score all season. By contrast, first-place Florida shot an 844 (-20) overall — 87 strokes ahead of Cal.

Hughes and Aldred shot a relatively steady 77 (+5) and 78 (+6), tying for 57th and 63rd, respectively, but Hua, Doyle and Wilson all slipped dramatically. Hua tied for 66th with an 80 (+8), his worst round of the tournament, Doyle shot an 82 (+10) and placed 74th and Wilson shot an 83 (+11) and placed 75th.

“Tanner showed me a great deal of poise for playing in the No. 1 spot for us all three days,” Chun said in an email. “He’s got a fire inside him that I like to see. … He knows how a championship golf course will test him, and he will work accordingly to get better. As for Devin, it was his maiden voyage in college golf, and he held his own out there. … He has talent to play at a high level, he just needs to continue competing and learn from his pitfalls.”

But despite the struggles that come from coaching a relatively new and inexperienced collegiate golf team, Chun said he likes working with the newer players.

“That’s what coaching is all about,” Chun said in an email. “(The players) all have good questions and are asking the right ones. There’s no shortcut to learning and growing as players, but it’s our job to help make them think better with course management, practice smarter, and compete more confidently.”

Although its last-place finish was disappointing, Chun said it’s good for the team to experience adversity in the beginning, as it shows players’ true characters.

“Coming in last stood out because we’re a long ways away from competing for tournament team titles, but that’s good. Much of any success for any athletes is struggling and failing,” Chun said in an email. “There’s no athlete in the world that hasn’t experienced failures. It’s just up to that athlete on how they will respond to adversity.”

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