Sophomore Collin Morikawa secured his first collegiate first-place finish Wednesday at the Southern Highlands Collegiate, a highly competitive tournament in which Cal men’s golf placed 12th overall.
The Bears were solidly in the middle of the pack after the first round, posting a 292 (+4), one of Cal’s better opening rounds this season. After that, they were tied for eighth with Oklahoma and powerhouse No. 2 Florida.
The individual players, on the whole, had middling performances. Sophomore Tanner Hughes shot an 80 (+8) for 74th, while redshirt freshman William Aldred and redshirt sophomore Ben Doyle both shot 76 (+4) to tie for 57th. Freshman Sean Yu played well, with a 74 (+2), but it was Morikawa’s stunning performance that catapulted Cal up a few places.
Morikawa shot a 66 (-6) to rise to first place overall, besting fellow Ben Hogan watchlist members such as Maverick McNealy of Stanford and John Oda of UNLV. Morikawa, who was still looking for his first collegiate tournament win, was looking good after the first round.
The second round, however, did not bode so well for the Bears. Cal shot a 303 (+15) to drop into 12th place, still tied with underachieving Florida. Yu, Aldred, Doyle and Hughes all dropped their placements by quite a few places, ending up in 53rd, 61st, 67th and 72nd, respectively. Although Morikawa’s performance, a 71 (-1), on the second day did not meet the high bar set by his first round, it was enough to retain his spot in first-place.
The third round saw Cal retain its 12th-place placement — ahead of No. 15 San Diego State, which ended up last.
Aldred faltered in the third round, shooting an 85 (+13) for 77th, while Hughes stayed consistent between the second and third rounds, shooting a 77 (+5) both times for 68th. Doyle dramatically improved his play, tying Yu, who shot a 78 (+6), for 59th with a 74 (+2). Although he shot a 73 (+1), Morikawa’s performance from the first round was good enough to tide him over, and he tied with Grant Hirschman of Oklahoma for first place.
“Throughout the whole week, I had been feeling good about my game, and to finally get a chance and really win [the tournament] was a great opportunity,” Morikawa said. “I was able to hold on and fight, and … getting a taste of first will definitely be a big bonus for me to go on.”
The Southern Highlands Collegiate hosted an extremely competitive field, and featured seven top-25 teams — five of which are in the top 10. The last time the Bears faced a tournament of such difficulty was in the fall, at the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational, in which they finished last. While 12th is not exactly a high placement, Cal’s defeat of a ranked team, San Diego State, shows how much the Bears have grown since the fall.
“We’ve kind of dug ourselves into a hole coming down the stretch to make regionals,” Morikawa said. “We’ve got to come out, ready to play, and put our best foot forward.”
Maya Rao covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected]