Coming off three top-10 finishes in the fall, the Cal women’s golf team looked to continue its strong play as it got back on the course for the first time in 2017. The Cal women’s golf team kicked off the 2017 season at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge at the Palos Verdes Golf Club on Sunday.
The Bears were pushed right into competition at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge at the Palos Verdes Golf Club. They faced some of the best teams in the country Sunday — 10 of whom, out of the 15 competing, were ranked in the top 25 of the Golfstat team rankings going into the weekend — and they came out tied for 11th.
After one full round of play on Sunday, the Bears ended the day tied for ninth with Oklahoma State +13 (294) and trailed first place UCLA by 17 shots -4 (280). Amid this slow start, sophomore Marianne Li carried the team by birdying the opening hole and continuing to shoot even par on the back nine at +2 (73). She ended the day tied for 20th and only five shots behind the leader. Also having a solid outing, freshman Maria Herraez tied Li’s results after the first round, making only her second collegiate tournament appearance.
Coming into their second round Monday, the Bears looked to advance from their ninth place position, but they fell short. Despite dropping six strokes +20 (588), they ended the day tied for 10th with Arizona, 23 strokes behind the leader Florida -3 (565).
Herraez was the only Bear to continue her impressive play and once again finish in the top 20. She finished one-under on the day to move her into a tie for 15th on the overall leaderboard at +1 (143). Herraez started the day T-20 and shot one-under on the back nine to open the day, holding par the rest of the day.
Although the Bears may not have had the performance as a team they were hoping for, ending the three-day tournament in Palos Verdes T-11 +33 (885) there were some impressive individual performances that are indicative of the Bears’ potential for the rest of the season.
Senior Laura Gutierrez climbed the leader boards throughout the tournament to end T31 in the field of 15 teams. Even more impressive was Herraez, who finished the tournament in a tie for 14th overall at three-over par (216). She shot par on 38 of 54 holes in the tournament, tied for the second-most by any player in the field.
Yet the strong performances of two individual players were not nearly enough to help the Bears to a victory, as the other three players in field for the team all placed outside the top 50. This included sophomore Marianne Li, who began the tournament only five strikes back from the leader. USC eventually won the tournament for the second consecutive year, finishing +4 (856).
With much room to improve, the Bears will tee off at the Bruin Wave Invitational in San Luis Obispo, California on Feb. 27.
Graham Griffin covers women’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].