Cal falters in regular season finale

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The golf balls were not the only things that got knocked around this weekend at the Western Intercollegiate Tournament in Santa Cruz, Calif. The Cal men’s golf team suffered through one of its toughest competitions of the year, finishing in fifth place on Sunday.

No. 1 Texas won the 14-team tournament, followed by No. 8 Stanford, No. 6 UCLA, No. 3 USC, and No. 5 Cal. The Bears played one of their worst collective tournaments of the year, unable to bounce back after a poor performance on the first day of play.

“This is the first time all year that we really struggled over 18 or more holes,” said head coach Steve Desimone. “We hit some bad shots and got in trouble. Most of the year, we have been able to play out of that but it didn’t work out for us this time.”

Desimone blamed the poor weather for his team’s performance on Saturday. Strong winds and an early bitter cold may have hindered the golfers on the first day of competition, but few excuses remained for the flawed play on Sunday.

Junior Brandon Hagy had two bad swings that resulted on triple bogies. Sophomore Joël Stalter also struggled on Sunday, with three triple bogies on the back nine he finished at +20 overall. The 16th hole proved to be especially challenging.

“I can’t remember a hole ever pulverizing us like 16 did to us,” Desimone said. “Everyone is a little disappointed. Obviously we wish we had finished a little bit higher. Sometimes golf wins. It certainly won this team.”

The two bright spots for the squad came from Hagy and freshman Michael Kim. Kim finished 11th with a score of +4 overall and Hagy finished tied for 20th with a +7.

Desimone is looking forward to helping the Bears put their struggles behind them as they spend the next week and a half preparing for the Pac-12 tournament.

“It was a long 54 holes,” Desimone said. “We are going to take tomorrow off. We are definitely going to have to re-evaluate.”

Part of that evaluation will involve deciding which six golfers will represent the Bears at the Pac-12 tournament. Hagy and junior Max Homa have secured their spots on the roster, as has Kim. Though Stalter has struggled recently, his strong performances in the past will make it difficult for Desimone to leave him at home.

“Even though Joël did not play well, he will probably still settle into that fourth spot.” Desimone said. “It will take us some time to figure out.”

The final two spots will be up for grabs, but junior Pace Johnson, senior Jeff Hamm, and freshman Keelen Kilpatrick are the frontrunners.

Assuming that the Bears can bounce back after this weekend’s disappointments, they should be in contention for the Pac-12 title in two weeks.