While the Bay Area endured heavy winds and unsettling cold, the Cal women’s golf team traveled south across the Pacific Ocean to sunny and toasty Hawaii.
On Monday and Tuesday, the Bears played 54-holes at the exclusive par-73 Nanea Golf Club — the host location of the Pac-12 Preview. The fall finale featured the University of Hawaii and nine Pac-12 opponents, five of which are ranked in the top-25.
The Bears suffered tough losses against No. 14 Washington and Colorado, finishing just one and two strokes behind, respectively. Washington’s lineup was highlighted by senior Charlotte Thomas, who was the highest ranked individual with 7-under 70-69-73=212.
No. 23 Cal finished the first round with a team score of 297, which left the team in fourth. But, a surging No. 13 Arizona State made up the four-stroke deficit and added a seven-stroke lead to tie with No. 6 UCLA after the first day. The Bears would eventually finish the tournament in sixth place.
Freshman Marianne Li compiled 75s on the first and second round, but, on the last 18 holes, she worked her way to 4-under 69, one of just six round scores below 70. Her five birdies en route to the 69 doubled her total number of birdies for the tournament. Despite entering the event as Cal’s third seed, Li emerged as the Bear’s top scorer when she tied with three other players including No. 1 Bronte Law from UCLA for fourth, Li’s first career top-five overall finish.
Finishing four strokes behind Li was junior Lucia Gutierrez, who finished T15. Gutierrez assembled a solid aggregate score of 74-74-75=223 (+4) and is showing signs of improvement throughout the year. She started the season with +12 at the CSU Ptarmigan Classic, which she followed up with +9 at the Edean Ihlanfeldt Invitational. Before finishing +4 at this competition, Gutierrez carded +3 at the Stanford Intercollegiate. Her steady improvement throughout the season could prove valuable heading into the fall break.
Sophomore Marthe Wold, who finished T24, and senior Hannah Suh, who finished T27, rounded out the scoring portion of Cal’s roster, as only the top four on each team are factored into the scores. Wold finished the Pac-12 Preview with round scores of 75-79-73=227 (+8), while Suh put together 73-75-80=228 (+9). Suh entered the tournament as the Bears’ number one seed, but seven bogeys and a double bogey on the last day prevented her from obtaining a more competitive score. While not the sole reason for Cal falling behind as the tournament progressed, seven strokes would have made the difference of finishing fourth, just two strokes behind No. 9 Arizona.
Despite not being factored into the team’s score, freshman Amina Wolf finished T22 with a 75-76-75=226 (+6). Wolf’s performance this season will give Cal another option, which may prove to be useful for the Bears because of struggling senior Carly Childs.
Childs’ 78-81-83=242 (+23) finished a disappointing 50 out of 59 individuals. In spite of Childs’ history of solid performances for Cal during the championship season, she has yet to perform well this season.
For Cal, the struggle remains the same: consistency. A hiatus from competition could allow the Bears to work on improving their short game. Getting onto the green in as few strokes as possible and being able to convert opportunities into birdies and pars will certainly help lower scores. In a conference with stiff competition like the Pac-12, lowering scores by a single stroke can make all the difference.
Chris Zheng covers women’s golf. Contact him at [email protected]