Cal women’s golf surprises at Silverado Showdown

Kailua Kona, HI - October 24, 2016: The Colorado Buffaloes compete at the PAC 12 Preview at Nanea Golf Club.
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Kailua Kona, HI - October 24, 2016: The Colorado Buffaloes compete at the PAC 12 Preview at Nanea Golf Club.

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The Silverado Showdown in Napa, California, was the Cal women’s golf team’s final regular season tournament, serving as the last time the Cal women’s golf team could make a statement.

The team needed a top-five finish against multiple top-five teams to put the team in a strong position for the upcoming Pac-12 tournament in Arizona, something that was not necessarily expected of them.

They did just that.

The team finished tied for fourth (+5) in arguably its best performance of the spring season, with Stanford winning the tournament (-16).

Senior Lucia Gutierrez carried the Bears throughout the three-day competition. She has had multiple impressive individual outings throughout the season despite the team’s mediocre results this spring, and shot a season low 69 on Sunday.  Gutierrez is ranked as the 77th player in the nation — the highest of any of her teammates — and shot par on 11 holes, a level of consistency that the team has been missing all season. This performance landed her T-5 after the first round.

As Gutierrez had her best round of the season, freshman Maria Herraez had arguably her worst. Herraez has finished in the top 15 in three of the four spring tournaments, yet on Sunday, she shot a disappointing 76 (+4) to finish T-52 with fellow teammate junior Marthe Wold. Although Herraez and Wold struggled, Cal was tied for sixth after the first round with Iowa State at 292 (+4), trailing only Stanford, UCLA, Oregon, Colorado and Northwestern — all top-50 teams.

Monday’s play mirrored much of the first round for the Bears, with Gutierrez continuing her impressive outing — shooting par in the second round stay to stay T-5 — and sophomore Marianne Li also shooting par, as she had in the first round. Li finished the second round T-16 overall. Wold and Herraez continued to struggle, placing T-48 and T-59 respectively. This did not, however, stop the Bears from gaining ground as they finished the second round fifth overall with Iowa State. These two rounds of high-level play set the stage for a top finish for the Bears.

Coming into the final round, all that Cal needed to do was play consistently — something much easier said than done in the world of golf and something that the Bears have struggled with all season.

Gutierrez, Li and Wold all finished in the top-30 with Gutierrez continuing her outstanding play to finish T-9 overall, her second top-10 finish of the season.

The fourth-place finish, which tied the Bears best performance of the spring, came just in time. Every aspect of play that the Bears had been struggling with seemed to disappear. They had a veteran presence in Gutierrez, who won the Silverado tournament in 2015, and played consistently in every round — a challenge that the Bears seemed like they may not overcome before the postseason. With each element of the team coming together right before the Pac-12 tournament, the Bears have finally set themselves up to be a threat.

Graham Griffin covers women’s golf. Contact her at [email protected]