You don’t typically see a bear in the desert. That’s exactly what will happen this weekend, however, as the Cal men’s golf team travels to Tucson, Arizona, to compete in the Arizona Intercollegiate.
The team will compete at the Sewailo Golf Club, a top-25 course in Arizona, starting with 36 holes Friday and the final 18 holes Saturday.
“Sewailo is a very fair golf course. There are only a couple of holes that I’m not a big fan of,” said Cal head coach Steve Desimone. “The guys like playing it. The greens have always been in great shape and we’ve played in this event for years.”
Cal, along with Texas, sit atop a 16-team field — the 16th-ranked Bears and the eighth-ranked Longhorns are the only ranked teams competing. Texas features junior Beau Hossler and sophomore Scottie Scheffler, both of whom are ranked in the top 12 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. Cal will also face Pac-12 foes Utah, Washington and Washington State in addition to the tournament’s hosts, Arizona.
Being the first event of the spring season, the Bears see this tournament as a way to build confidence and prepare for upcoming larger-scale tournaments.
“We have to put ourselves in positions to win. We need to gain experience being in the lead,” said sophomore KK Limbhasut. “We need more experience finishing tournaments strong.”
Cal tied for fourth in the 2015 iteration of the event. This year’s team will start only two players who played in that tournament, senior Shotaro Ban and Limbhasut. Ban set the pace for the Bears finishing at -4, good for a tie for third finish individually. Limbhasut tied for 23rd as an individual finishing the 54 holes at +3. Arizona State won the tournament finishing at -12, 11 strokes better than runner-up University of Texas at El Paso but the Sun Devils will not be returning for the 2016 event. Cal carded a +5 at the 2015 Intercollegiate.
The Bears enter the spring season as a well-conditioned bunch. Desimone and his staff noticed the team struggling to finish events as strongly as it started them, so the team spent the offseason focused heavily on improving its strength and conditioning, with the hopes that it wouldn’t falter as the competition heats up in later rounds.
“The last couple of years this team has finished well in last rounds. We slipped on that,” Desimone said. “We can control a lot of variables. We can control conditioning. We’re making big efforts to improve our conditioning with the idea that that will help us finish better. We’re in carts for the entire tournament in Arizona, which will help us have that extra strength to finish strong.”
With big events in Hawaii and Mexico upcoming, the Bears will hope to use the Arizona Intercollegiate to fine-tune their games as they look to win their third event of the 2015-16 season.
“This is a great way for us to prepare for Hawaii, Cabo and Las Vegas,” Desimone said. “We need to work on the way we handle ourselves on the golf course when the competition heats up.”