Sometimes, the pieces for success are in place, but things just don’t pan out. This was the case for the Cal men’s golf team last year. A historically good program, Cal struggled from the outset, consistently placing in the middle of the pack in the majority of its tournaments. The season was a roller coaster of highs and lows that saw flashes of brilliance and a fair number of forgettable performances. The season eventually culminated in an eighth-place finish in the Pac-12 Championships. In the end, it was a tough but important learning season for the Bears.
A new season comes with a clean slate and the opportunity for redemption. With Cal head coach Walter Chun, the Alex and Marie Shipman Director of Men’s Golf, now in his second year in charge, the Bears will look to right the ship and prove that last season was simply an aberration after failing to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
“There’s no doubt we are all excited for this season,” Chun said. “Every player has worked hard preparing, and now it’s time to tee it up and see what we’re capable of.”
Cal will return standout junior Collin Morikawa, one of the top players in the country and a bright spot for the Bears throughout all of last season. According to Golfweek, Morikawa is ranked 13th in the nation and is considered the second-best amateur according to the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking. The Bears will certainly be looking to Morikawa to anchor the team and turn in consistent performances throughout the season.
“Collin plays a key role for us, but so do all his teammates,” Chun explained. “College golf is all about team, and his teammates have to step up. Collin is a great player, but so are his teammates.”
While Cal had to say goodbye to redshirt senior Walker Huddy, a veteran on the team from last year, it will turn to players such as sophomore Finigan Tilly, senior Clayton Madey, junior William Aldred and redshirt junior Ben Doyle to improve upon their seasons from last year. One of the biggest improvements that these players can make is to their consistency of play. With an extra year of experience, the Bears will certainly be looking for these players to play bigger roles this season.
“Better course management and improved short game, wedge play and lag putting will be the key focal points of this season,” Chun said. “We have the talent to play with any team in the country. We simply need to be smart with our games, yet we also need to focus on the areas of scoring.”
With the Bears currently ranked just outside the NCAA top 25 in the country, there will definitely be a chip on the shoulder for the team to rebound and get back to the form over the last decade.
The Bears open up the season on the road when they play in the Carpet Capital Collegiate Tournament in Georgia and the OFCC/Fighting Illini Invitational in Illinois. One thing is clear: The team will be traveling a good amount. Its road matches will be highlighted by a trip to Hawaii to play in the Ka’anapali Classic Collegiate Invitational and a trip to Mexico to participate in the Querencia Cabo Collegiate Tournament.
With a healthy mix of star power, experience and youth, Cal will look to defy expectations and reclaim its status as an elite program.
Praveen Kuruppu covers volleyball. Contact him at