Cal men’s golf has the experience for season success

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Eric Miller/Courtesy

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If repetition breeds comfort, then the Cal men’s golf team should feel pretty confident headed into its 2018-19 season. With a fall schedule nearly identical to that of a year ago, the Bears are headed into familiar territory and should know what to anticipate.

This Friday marks the start of the team’s first tournament, the Carpet Capital Collegiate hosted by Georgia Tech. The Bears were disappointed by their ninth-place finish in the season opener last year but were determined to use the experience as preparation for the rest of the season.

Despite it being his first collegiate event, then-freshman Kaiwen Liu outperformed his teammates in the 2017 event to finish on top for Cal. With a few more notches under his belt, Liu has the potential to be an even more effective player this year.

The next weekend, Cal will hop on another plane bound for Olympia Fields, Illinois. The OFCC/Fighting Illini Invitational seemed to also be a warmup tournament for the team last year, as it finished tied with North Carolina for ninth overall.

It wasn’t until the 2017 Alister MacKenzie Invitational that the Bears started to show off their talent last year, but this season Cal will first have to face an unfamiliar test. After returning home, the first Cal-Stanford Menlo Matchup in history is set for Sept. 20 in Woodside, California, at the Menlo Country Club.

The one-on-one matchup between two Pac-12 powerhouses will be strange waters for both teams and a spectacle not to be missed.

A first-place finish for the team in last year’s MacKenzie Invitational has set high expectations for the Bears. Redshirt senior K.K. Limbhasut finished in first place to receive his third individual medalist honor in college. Now entering his final season of eligibility, Limbhasut has gained experience and professionalism through both collegiate and cup play that will only make him more of a threat to opponents in the coming months.

Cal also has one more season with standout senior Collin Morikawa, arguably the top collegiate golfer in the nation. Morikawa has racked up three individual medalist honors and 13 top-five finishes during his years as a Bear. Though he didn’t win any tournaments last year, he is expected to add to those numbers this season.

A few more of Morikawa’s noteworthy accomplishments include being twice named as the team MVP and a Division I PING First-Team All-American. Perhaps most outstanding, he was also recently named the 2018 Golfweek Men’s Player of the Year.

Last year’s Tavistock Collegiate Invitational, held in Windermere, Florida, was described as one of the biggest wins ever for Cal men’s golf. With the help of a second-place individual finish from Morikawa, Cal held on to first by only a single shot, leaving Illinois and Florida tied for second. The only improvement they could make to this Cinderella story would be to increase that margin and leave no room for doubt.

A third-place finish behind LSU and South Carolina at the Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic Invitational could also be improved upon by the team, and a replication of Limbhasut’s first-place finish in the fall season’s final tournament could help with that goal.

With three new freshmen and a transfer to replace only one graduated senior from last year, the roster has a good mixture of experience to pave the way to success for this season and years to come.

Alison White is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].