In any other year, Cal rugby would have taken the spot as the best Cal sport. It’s hard to argue with a track record that includes 26 championships since 1980.
But not this year.
The Cal men’s golf team had one of the greatest seasons of all time. In any sport. Ever.
The team’s 11 tournament wins are the most in collegiate golf history, breaking a record that has stood since the 1970s. There are only 13 tournaments in the entire year. The team dominated the rankings, remaining at the No. 1 spot in the country for nearly the entire season.
It’s hard to even fathom those numbers, much less argue against them.
And the squad was loaded with star power. Michael Kim won the Haskins award and the Jack Nicklaus award, each naming him the top golfer in the country. The rising junior was also ranked at the top spot by Golfweek and had the lowest stroke average in the country heading into the NCAA championship.
Then there are Michael Weaver, Joel Stalter and Max Homa — who rank at No. 11, No. 12 and No. 13, respectively. And let’s not forget Brandon Hagy at No. 19. Rankings aren’t everything, of course, but that kind of depth is unbelievable. Only Alabama can come close in numbers, and the Crimson Tide went 0-4 against the Bears in the regular season.
The only black mark on the team, of course, was the NCAA Championship. The Bears were the overwhelming favorite going into the title event but ended with just a fourth-place finish.
Tears were shed. Ultimately, a historic season ended with an equally historic upset.
Often, that is the way sports go. Upsets happen. It might sound like a cliche, but that is why they play the games.
But this is not the same. The men’s golf team did not get upset — they got screwed.
The golf team’s season is not analogous to the season of the 2007 Patriots, who went undefeated in the regular season only to lose the Super Bowl. Nor is it similar to the season of the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who won as many games as any baseball team ever only to be upended by the Yankees in the ALCS.
Those teams lost fair and square, but the Cal men’s golf team suffered their fate due to an unfair system. Though the regular season for golf uses stroke-play events, the NCAA Championship switches to match-play. Match-play events can, ultimately, be more exciting to watch by leading to improbable upsets. But those upsets come at the integrity of the game, which should be designed to reward those teams that are the best.
And the men’s golf squad was undeniably that — the best. Why else would awards, like coach Steve Desimone’s coach of the year award, keep flooding in even after they lost at the NCAAs?
So screw the NCAAs. The Cal men’s golf team is already looking to the future, confident in the knowledge that the team’s 2013 effort was one of the best ever.
Sure, losing Homa, the team’s only senior, will hurt. He is a tough piece to replace. But the team last year was already so far above its competitors that there is no reason next year can’t result in the capture of that elusive championship.