Big match, big victory: Cal tops Stanford in inaugural Big Match

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The Cal women’s and men’s golf teams paired up to defeat rival Stanford in the inaugural Big Match this past Thursday at the Menlo Country Club, highlighted by a strong finish from seniors Cindy Oh and Collin Morikawa.

This unique event paired players from both the women’s and men’s teams to compete in a four-ball style tournament with six different matches. All of the duos were composed of one male and one female golfer, except for Cal sophomore Sofia Lundell and senior Marianne Li, who comprised the only team with two female golfers.

Stanford won the first head-to-head, and then two ties followed, leaving Cal slightly behind its archrival halfway through the contest. The two teams then alternated wins in rounds four and five, meaning Cal would have to win the final round to even things up.

The Bears, led by redshirt senior Ben Doyle and senior Amina Wolf, did just that, and forced a playoff to decide the winner of the event.

Beforehand, the programs had agreed that the top pairing from each team would participate in the playoff hole. The two-hole playoff pitted Morikawa and Oh against Stanford’s Isaiah Salinda and Andrea Lee.

On the first hole, Oh sank a birdie, which was then matched by Salinda, forcing one extra hole to determine the champion. The Cal stars weren’t fazed, coming through clutch with a birdie again, and this time, the Cardinal pairing couldn’t match it, giving the Bears a statement victory.

“I just felt good on the course; I was really relaxed, I trusted my game and my playing partner, Collin, and everything just went in,” Oh said in a press conference.

Her confidence was evident in her performance, as Oh posted birdies in nine out of 16 holes, including the two big ones at the end to seal the win. Oh gave an outstanding performance in the team’s last outing at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational as well, claiming a fourth-place individual finish, a career best for the senior.

Freshmen James Song and Katherine Zhu provided the other matchup victory for Cal on the day, with a 4 & 3 win over their opponents, Stanford’s David Snyder and Ziyi Wang. This midround victory, along with the early ties featuring the Bears’ Doyle, Wolf, KK Limbhasut and Elena Arias are what kept the match competitive and interesting until the very end.

This was a breathtaking event to kick off a new tradition within the Cal-Stanford rivalry, but there was more than just the game on some of the players’ minds. On Monday, golfer Celia Barquín Arozamena, female athlete of the year at Iowa State, was tragically killed while practicing at Coldwater Golf Links. Arias and Cal junior Maria Herraez Galvez were both teammates of Barquín Arozamena on the Spanish national team.

“For us today, we had a bigger purpose,” Galvez said in a press statement. “We were playing for something else, not just playing Stanford. Losing Celia — that hit us pretty hard.”

With heavier hearts, Cal women’s golf will take aim at another strong performance at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Collegiate Invitational this week in Idaho.

Jack Whaley covers women’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].