Unlike many other sports, golf is a game where external factors can have a major impact on the outcome of a round. When Mother Nature is cruel — especially in a desert — bad things can ensue.
This was the case for the No. 14 Cal men’s golf team, which was severely hindered by strong windy conditions that led to one of its worst rounds of the season. In the end, when the dust settled, Cal finished in seventh place after digging itself into a hole too big to escape of in the first round.
Entering into the Arizona Intercollegiate in Tucson, Arizona, Cal knew that a desert golf course presented challenges that might prove to be difficult. The Bears, however, did not foresee the possibility that 25 mph gusts on the first day would create such a big hindrance.
As all teams would be playing 36 holes on the first day, it was paramount that the Bears got off to a strong start. For Cal, this was not the case as the Bears struggled from the onset to find their rhythm on the course. After the first round, Cal trailed No. 6 Baylor by 11 strokes and sat in 10th place out of 18 teams.
In the second round, the weather conditions eased a bit and the overall play of the team improved. Junior Collin Morikawa and redshirt juniors KK Limbhasut and Sebastian Crampton responded in a positive way after atrocious first rounds by their standards.
They each recorded a 71 (E) in round two — marked improvements from earlier in the morning. However, redshirt sophomore Jamie Cheatham and redshirt junior Ben Doyle weren’t able to find their consistency and both shot 82 (+11).
At this point, Cal trailed the leaders by 25 strokes and was in ninth place. It was clear that the Bears were out of contention and were now playing for pride and to gain some confidence heading into their next tournament.
“Yesterday was a tough day to watch,” said Cal head coach Walter Chun. “The wind was howling, and we simply didn’t adjust and play well.”
In the final round, Cal finally looked like the team that had been so impressive in the fall season. The Bears shot a collective 279 and finished in seventh place. Morikawa led the charge by shooting 66 (-5) in round three. Meanwhile, Limbhasut ended the tournament with the lowest score for Cal with a 219 (+6).
While the first two rounds didn’t go the way the team had planned, the resiliency displayed in the final round was a welcome sight to see. This “never quit” attitude is an important characteristic, especially in a game like golf where one has to put bad performances behind them.
“I think the guys knew that they needed to post a good round for a decent finish to the tournament,” Chun said. “They seemed more determined and wanted to finish on a high note.”
Overall, the Arizona Intercollegiate was a disappointing one for the team. Nevertheless, the beauty of college golf is that Cal will get another opportunity to avenge this result. With other big tournaments ahead of them, the Bears will look to overlook whatever conditions are thrown their way.
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