Cal women’s golf heads to NCAA Nationals

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Kailua Kona, HI - October 24, 2016: The Colorado Buffaloes compete at the PAC 12 Preview at Nanea Golf Club.

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After an up and down, unpredictable season, the Cal women’s golf team heads to Illinois to compete in the NCAA national tournament.

The team qualified for the tournament after finishing tied for fifth overall — the top six teams advance — at the regional tournament. This appearance marks the team’s 18th consecutive appearance at the NCAA regional round.

This year will be the Bears’ shot at redemption after they just missed the championship round last year, finishing seventh overall at the regional tournament at Shoal Creek. Cal will travel to Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois, as the seventh seed for the tournament.

The Bears could be facing a significant challenge playing in Illinois. The team has not traveled outside of the west coast this season and weather could be a factor in their performance.

The team will have to battle heat and humidity, which not only can wear down the players but also affect how the ball travels.

In addition, rain may be a concern throughout the weekend as it would damage both the bunkers and the greens which creates an additional challenge on the course.

All 24 qualifying teams will compete in 54 holes of stroke play. The top 15 teams will then advance for one additional day of stroke play. From there, the top-eight teams advance and compete in match play for the championship.

The Bears have competed match-play tournament this season in San Diego.

The tournament consists of four other Pac-12 teams besides Cal including No. 1 Arizona State, No. 3 Stanford, No. 10 USC and No. 36 Oregon State.

The real key to success though for the Bears will be their veteran players. Throughout the spring season freshman Maria Herraez has proved herself to be a consistent top finisher for the Bears.

In the tournaments that she has competed in, fellow freshman Jiyoon Jang has also proved herself to be a consistently strong player. Senior Lucia Gutierrez and junior Marthe Wold, on the other hand, have not proven the same level of consistency.

Gutierrez has had some great tournaments, finishing in the top 10 in three of the regular season tournaments. So far in the postseason, she has not performed up to her usual level, finishing well outside the top 25 in both the Pac-12 tournament and the regional tournament.

Wold has struggled almost all of the regular season, but was the star of the regional tournament and finishing tied for 11th overall in the individual leaderboards.

If Wold can build off of her last performance and not sink back to the way she played in the regular season, she will be a huge asset to the team. With Gutierrez and Wold playing at their best, the Bears could be a serious force at the national championships.

Graham Griffin covers women’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].