While the majority of golf fans were glued to their televisions following the ebbs and flows of the Masters, a small minority of fans flocked to the Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz to watch some of the best collegiate golf at the Western Intercollegiate Golf Tournament.
For the third straight tournament, the No. 10 Cal men’s golf team played well but ultimately had to settle for a second-place finish. In the end, Cal was never able to catch No. 24 North Carolina, which finished at 1036 (-14), 10 strokes better than the Bears.
“It’s nice to finish second, but we’ve been bridesmaids now three times in a row,” said Cal head coach Walter Chun. “The level of play to sustain these results since February is special; it shows that we are a quality team, but obviously, we’re trying to win.”
The tournament really got exciting Sunday afternoon, when junior Collin Morikawa made a late charge to force his way into a three-way playoff.
Entering the last round, Morikawa stood in a tie for ninth, four shots off the lead. After shooting a final-round 64 (-6) — the lowest round of the entire competition — the junior set the stage for an exciting playoff with Oregon sophomore Norman Xiong and Arizona senior George Cunningham.
In the first hole of play, Morikawa and Xiong made par, but Cunningham was unable to follow suit, bogeying the hole.
After pars at the second, play moved onto the third hole. In what turned out to be the deciding hole, Xiong was able to convert his birdie opportunity while Morikawa had to settle for par, handing the Oregon sophomore his third consecutive tournament victory.
Although Morikawa certainly would have wanted to come out on top in the playoff, the junior turned in a quite a performance, especially at a course he struggled at previously in his collegiate career.
“Collin’s performance was spectacular,” Chun said. “Pasatiempo had gotten the better of Collin his first two years, but for him to turn it around this year with his co-medalist finish shows how much his game has evolved from his freshman year to sophomore year to now.”
For the second straight tournament, redshirt junior Sebastian Crampton delivered another top-10 finish. Crampton shot 204 (-6) to finish in a tie for sixth.
Rounding out the lineup for the Bears were junior KK Limbhasut, freshman Kaiwen Liu and sophomore Finigan Tilly, who finished in ties for 31st, 37th and 62nd, respectively. Redshirt sophomore Jamie Cheatham, who was also in the lineup, was hampered by an injury that forced him to miss the first and third rounds.
With the regular season now in the books, Cal should be extremely pleased with the way it responded from last year’s disappointing finish. The Bears are in prime position to make a deep run in the postseason and will look to have everything come together at just the right time.
“We’ve played well, but we haven’t really played our A-game as of late,” Chun said. “We’re close, but now it’s just about having a tournament where everything jells.”