Cal men’s golf ties for fifth at John A. Burns Intercollegiate tournament

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Cal men’s golf netted its highest placement of the season at the Hawaii-hosted John A. Burns Intercollegiate, tying for fifth place with Santa Clara with a score of 860 (-4).

A disappointing first round, during which the team tied for ninth place with a score of 291 (+3), seemed to predict a bleak future for the Bears — in the fall, the Bears never placed above eighth place, usually because they stumbled during the first round.

Redshirt freshman Sean Yu held the highest individual placement at 11th, with a 70 (-2) round. Sophomore Collin Morikawa, a member of the Ben Hogan Award watch list, ended up in 14th place with a 71 (-1). Despite posting five birdies, sophomore Tanner Hughes and redshirt freshman William Aldred placed low, with Hughes at 40th with a 73 (+1) after four bogeys and one double bogey and Aldred at 80th with a 77 (+5) after six bogeys and two double bogeys. Redshirt senior Walker Huddy placed 98th after a 79 (+7) round.

But Morikawa, unwilling to repeat his mediocre performance in the Arizona Intercollegiate, shot a remarkable 66 (-6) to move him up 11 places to tie for third, only four strokes behind fellow Ben Hogan Award watch list member Chandler Phillips of Texas A&M.

“The middle of the second round turned the tide,” Cal men’s golf head coach Walter Chun said in an email. “(Hughes) chipped in for eagle on the 13th hole and (Morikawa) saw the great shot by (Hughes). I think that (Morikawa) got pumped up and … a few holes later, (Morikawa) made 5 birdies in a row and get to 8-under at one point in his second round. The other guys knew he was playing well, and they got going too.”

Nearly all the players improved in the second round. Hughes posted a 71 (-1), tying him for 27th, and Aldred posted a 74 (+2), placing 78th. Huddy moved up 30 places, shooting a 70 (-2) to tie him for 68th. But it was Morikawa’s 66 (-6) that pulled Cal up three places to tie for sixth. Aldred, Huddy and Hughes posted improved but middling scores; without Morikawa’s score, Cal would have remained in a middling placement.

“I didn’t start the week off great, but I was able to get my game intact and really dial it down to the final two rounds and get myself in contention,” Morikawa said.

The third round saw Cal’s first opportunity in two seasons to place in the top five, and the team certainly pulled out all the stops.

Morikawa retained his third place position with a 69 (-3), a score equalled by Huddy, who moved up a dramatic 36 places to tie for 32nd, his best performance since a 68 (-3) round at the Gopher Invitational last season.

“In the last two rounds, I got into a really good rhythm, made a lot of good decisions and minimized mistakes,” Huddy said in an email. “Walter Chun advised me to make a slight change in my setup and then everything started to click.”

Although Hughes, Yu and Aldred all shot over par, Morikawa’s and Huddy’s three-under par performances were strong enough to net Cal an overall 860 (-4), thus moving Cal into fifth place — ahead of ranked teams such as No. 25 Kennesaw State, which placed 12th.

“For a young, inexperienced team, I am proud of the way they stayed patient throughout the tournament much like a veteran team would do,” Chun said in an email. “When their play was stagnant during the event, they still stayed focused and never relented.”

Cal fell off the leaderboard after a series of disappointing finishes last season, and although Morikawa and Chun said that the team didn’t play its best in the Intercollegiate, if Cal continues to improve, it can certainly make the regional championships and climb back to the top of men’s golf.

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