Cal women’s golf looks to bounce back at Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational

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After a discouraging finish at the Ptarmigan Classic a couple of weeks ago, Cal will look to get the ball rolling on the fairways at its tournament from Tuesday to Wednesday. The Bears will be playing three rounds in Sammamish, Washington, at the Sahalee Country Club, a golf course best known for being the home of both the 1998 Professional Golf Association Championship and the 2016 Women’s Professional Golf Association Championships. The Bears will surely be aiming to use the tournament as a chance to bounce back.

Hosted by fellow Pac-12 member Washington, the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational will welcome Colorado, Oregon State and several other teams. Cal will get its first opportunity to match up against some of its Pac-12 competitors after a disappointing 10th-place finish out of the 11 teams competing at the Pac-12 Conference Championships last spring. Washington, Colorado and Oregon State earned third, fifth and eighth place, respectively. With Washington returning two of its five starters and Oregon State returning three starters from the championships, Cal is hoping to further its development as a team by returning all five starters.

The last time the Bears played at this course was in 2013, when they placed fifth out of 13 teams and finished behind Pac-12 members Stanford, Washington and Oregon. The sense of familiarity that junior Lucia Gutierrez and seniors Carly Childs and Hannah Suh have from two years ago may be a comforting sign for the rest of the team as it prepares to tee off. Having these veteran members could also be useful for the Bears’ younger players, such as freshman Marianne Li and sophomore Marthe Wold, both of whom will be striving to build upon their solid outings from three weeks ago.

The 2014 edition of the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational saw host team Washington beat second-place team and eventual 2015 NCAA Women’s Golf Championships Stanford by 19 strokes. With only two of Washington’s starters holding over from last year, almost completely changing its roster, the experience that Cal’s returning players have can be an advantage for the optimistic Bears. Cal should also look out for Colorado, which is returning all of its starting five who placed fifth in the tournament.

The Bears will get an opportunity to learn the golf course prior to the start of this week’s match play, which Cal head coach Nancy McDaniel wanted to better attack during the practice rounds. It also gives the Bears an opportunity to address one of their weaknesses from a few weeks ago: golf course management. Going through the practice rounds a bit better will give them a more sophisticated understanding of the course’s slopes and greens. Last time around, McDaniel thought Cal had too many three-putts and wasn’t close enough to par as the team would have expected. Limiting the three-putts will help the Bears card more birdies and less bogeys, which will give them a chance to win the title.

As standard protocol, the Bears had several intrasquad matches since the last competition to determine the starters for the upcoming invitational. These matches should have given the team a chance to put itself right back into a competitive setting and address its weaknesses so that it can achieve its goal.

Chris Zheng covers women’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].