Cal men’s golf finishes in 11th place without Collin Morikawa

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Eric Miller/Courtesy

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With a fall schedule featuring five of the same tournaments as last year, Cal men’s golf is in a unique situation. The team may not compete at home in the lair as often as some of the other blue and gold sports, but this season, the experienced roster will at least have the advantage of playing on familiar courses.

Unfortunately, that didn’t help the Bears this weekend at their season opener, the Carpet Capital Collegiate hosted by Georgia Tech.

Last year, the team came in ninth in its debut performance at the 54-hole event. Not an ideal ranking, but one the Bears were determined to improve on throughout the 2017-18 season. And improve they did.

With several seasoned players, the team hoped to continue this improvement at the start of the new school year, but its 11th-place finish showed how much work could still be done to reach its end-of-season goals.

Cal’s five-player lineup featured redshirt seniors K.K. Limbhasut, Sebastian Crampton and Ben Doyle, sophomore Kaiwen Liu and redshirt freshman Joseph Chun. They started the three-day tournament bright and early Friday morning, playing in five threesomes along with golfers from LSU and Florida.

Fans may notice that a familiar and talented face is missing from this tournament’s program. Senior Collin Morikawa, named Golfweek Men’s Player of the Year at the end of last season, was once again absent for the season start because of an outside event. Last year it was the 46th Walker Cup Match in Los Angeles. This year it’s the World Amateur Team Championship all the way in Ireland.

The first day of play saw 18 holes and an initial tie for 11th place. Limbhasut was the most consistent asset for the Bears, shooting a 1-over-par 73. Liu achieved a team high of five birdies but couldn’t keep up the same consistency as his teammate, with a triple bogey, double bogey and three bogeys on the day to land him tied for 49th.

Saturday saw a promising uptick for the Bears, and their performance would push them up to a temporary 8th place after improving their team score by 17 strokes. Most notable was Limbhasut’s first career hole-in-one on the par-three 11th to move him up into a tie for the 11th slot. It was Liu, however, who made Cal’s biggest jump of the day, increasing his standing 20 spots to tie for 29th.

The third time isn’t always the charm, as the final day of play saw Cal bumped back down to the 11th spot in team standings to end its season opener. Four birdies, five bogeys, one double bogey and an eagle made for an eventful day for Limbhasut to eventually land him tied for 14th, the top spot for the Bears.

Crampton took the next spot in a tie for 34th, then Liu tied for 41st, Chun tied for 68th and Doyle took a single slot at 76th. In overall tournament news, after an initial tie, Tennessee beat host Georgia Tech in the first hole of a playoff to take first place, while Bryson Nimmer from Clemson doled out a 10-under-par score of 206 to snatch the individual medalist honor.

Though the outcome of this tournament wasn’t as hoped, the Bears have proven themselves in the past, and improvement over the course of the season is not only hoped for but expected.

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