After an underwhelming first round ended its chances of a top-10 finish, the Cal men’s golf team ended up in 14th place at the Querencia Cabo Collegiate.
With the exception of sophomore Collin Morikawa and redshirt freshman Sean Yu, who both shot 70 (-1), all of Cal’s other players shot several points over par, earning the Bears a (304, +20) and placing them 14th after the first round.
“The nerves got to some of the players in the first round,” head coach Walter Chun said in an email.
The Querencia Cabo Collegiate hosted a field of eight top-25 teams, four of whom are in the top 10 — No. 1 Vanderbilt, No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 10 Georgia, No. 11 Wake Forest, No. 14 Baylor, No. 16 Texas, No. 18 Mississippi and No. 19 Duke. Every Bear, except Morikawa, was playing the course for the first time, and as many of Cal’s players are relatively new to men’s golf, it’s not a surprise to have seen them get a bit nervous in the first round. It happened in the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational, one of collegiate men’s golf’s most prestigious tournaments in the fall, and it happened again this week.
Cal’s second round went significantly better than the first, and the Bears slashed their first-round score by 16 strokes for a 288 (+4). Morikawa managed to shoot under par again, with a 68 (-3). Nearly all of Cal’s players, including redshirt senior Walker Huddy, made significant individual improvements.
“One big moment was seeing (Huddy) hang as tough as he did in the second round,” Chun said in an email. “He was nine over after five holes with the hardest parts of the golf course coming up. He finished his last 13 holes at two-under. That takes guts and heart.”
Despite that improvement, the Bears were not able to advance past their initial 14th placement on the second day, staying in the same place.
The Bears had solid round again on the third day, shooting only six strokes over par to clock in an 882 (+30). After a 69 (-2) round, Morikawa tied for seventh place overall, his fifth top-10 finish between the fall and spring seasons.
“Last year, (Morikawa) finished runner-up, and it’s not easy for players to back up a great finish from the year before,” Chun said in an email. “I wanted to see how (Morikawa) would respond to the pressure of playing well again … All the pressure was on him to back up his play in 2016, and with his (seventh-place) finish, he deserves the talk and praise coming his way. He’s really an impressive young man and player.”
One of the biggest issues with Cal’s performance at the Querencia Cabo Collegiate was its putting. Throughout the tournament, the Bears, including Morikawa, struggled in their short game, which set them back by so many points in the first round.
Although the results of the Collegiate were disappointing, Chun values the tournament as a good learning experience for the team.
“There’s no short cut to success, and they don’t call it growing pains for no reason,” Chun said in an email. “It will take time for these guys to improve, but they are improving … Our goal is to keep getting better. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
Maya Rao covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected]