Cal men’s golf finished this season the way they started it — in eighth place.
The Pac-12 Championships this weekend hosted a fairly competitive field, including No. 1 USC, No. 7 Stanford and No. 9 Oregon. Considering how Cal has performed against similarly ranked teams in tournaments, the Bears had low expectations heading into the championships.
But for a short time, Cal seemed to defy these expectations.
At the end of the first day, the Bears played two of their best rounds of the season and were in fourth place. Sophomore Collin Morikawa shot a 142 (+2) in both rounds to land in sixth place in the individual rankings, only shots points behind first. Freshman Finigan Tilly and redshirt senior Walker Huddy both shot 146 (+6) overall to tie for 16th while redshirt freshman Sean Yu shot 148 (+8) to tie for 30th. Sophomore Tanner Hughes and redshirt freshman William Aldred ended up tied for 42nd and 55th, respectively.
The Bears were only strokes behind the leaders of the tournament heading into the third round, and for a moment, an upset which could redeem the season seemed possible.
But after the third round was postponed because of weather, resulting in the tournament being shortened from 72 holes to 54 holes, the Bears lost their momentum.
Morikawa and Huddy played well during the third round, the former shooting 72 (+2) to earn his eighth top-10 finish this season and the latter shooting 71 (+1) to place 17th. Hughes had his best round of the tournament and finished with a 73 (+3), but the rest of the team struggled and Cal finished in eighth place.
Yu shot a 75 (+5) and fell 10 places. Tilly shot a 78 (+8), his worst showing in the tournament to finish tied for 47th, 31 places below his initial 16th-place standing. Aldred, though his performance improved to a 74 (+4), still fell two places to end the tournament in 57th place.
“If your team doesn’t win, all coaches wish they could have played better,” head coach Walter Chun said. “As a whole, I do not feel our ball striking was as strong as it has been, and unfortunately, we did not have many chances to make some birdies out there. The speed of the greens and where the pins were located made it rather tough to save par if we missed the greens.”
The results of the Pac-12 Championships are not what the Bears were hoping for, but it is a fitting end for a roller coaster of a season — Cal started out with an eighth-place finish at the Gopher Invitational in the fall, and the team ended the season with an eighth-place finish at the championships. Chun hopes he and the team will learn from this experience and go into next season much stronger for it.
“I wish we could have played better and made it to (NCAA) Regionals,” Chun said. “(But) we will all learn from this year, and the 2016-17 season will help us be a better team moving forward.”
Maya Rao covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected]