Cal men’s golf decimates competition to pick up 3rd win

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Redemption. There is simply no better feeling in sports.

After a lackluster start to its spring campaign in Arizona, the No. 15 Cal men’s golf team once more reminded the rest of the country that something special is brewing in the Bay.

At the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate, the Bears rose to the occasion and delivered a resounding 20-stroke victory in dominating fashion. To cap off the extraordinary weekend, redshirt junior Sebastian Crampton and junior Collin Morikawa finished in a tie for first place.

“It was awesome to share the individual victory with Seb,” Morikawa said. “He played great all week and it’s amazing that we had the opportunity to both come out on top.”

Both players turned in three magnificent rounds in what eventually became a runaway dismantling in the desert. Aside from the two co-winners, redshirt sophomore Jamie Cheatham turned in his best performance of the season finishing in a tie for fifth.

Not too far behind, redshirt junior KK Limbhasut climbed up the leaderboard on Sunday to finish in a tie for 12th. Rounding out the team was redshirt junior Ben Doyle, who rebounded nicely after a sluggish opening round to finish in a tie for 25th.

“I can’t say enough superlatives of how these guys played and how proud I am,” said Cal head coach Walter Chun.

From the onset of this tournament, Cal was on a mission to prove that their last performance at the Arizona Intercollegiate wasn’t an accurate representation of its talent. Given that the team was once again competing on a desert course — something that the team has struggled with in the past —  this tournament was the perfect opportunity for the Bears to show that no course could intimidate them.

In the first round, Cal raced out to a big lead, led by a pair of 68s (-4) from Morikawa and Cheatham and a 67 (-5) by Crampton. The hot start made it clear that Cal had brought its A-game and was ready to grind.

In the second round, the Bears didn’t let off the gas; instead, they hit the throttle. Cheatham matched Crampton’s first round with a 67 (-5), giving him a combined score of 135 (-9). Morikawa and Crampton only trailed by a few shots and were within striking distance of the leaders.

At this point, Cal had an astounding 15-shot lead, and barring an epic collapse, the tournament was all but wrapped up.

In the last round, Morikawa and Crampton put on a birdie display as the two combined for 14 birdies and only one bogey. This near-immaculate play carried the two to a joint victory.

In the end, the Bears posted an 817 (-47), 20 strokes ahead of runner-up Texas Tech.

“Picking up my first collegiate win has been a goal of mine for a while, and it’s nice that it finally happened,” Crampton said.

The best way to describe this performance was pure domination. After having two weeks to practice in between competition, it definitely showed as the team’s overall play was much sharper.

The Bears were extremely efficient with hitting fairways and greens in regulation, something that eluded them in Tucson two weeks ago.

If this performance is any indication of what the team has in store, the rest of the country better pay attention. The Bears have now matched No. 1 Alabama and No. 18 Kentucky in terms of tournament wins, at three apiece. Only No. 4 Texas A&M, who the Bears saw in Arizona, lead the pack with four wins.

Overall, Chun deserves much credit for his job in returning this program back to its rightful place as one of the nation’s best. After what was a tough previous year, the turnaround this season has been nothing short of amazing.

There is still much golf to be played, but things are finally looking bright for one of Cal’s more underappreciated sports teams.

Praveen Kuruppu covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].