A few days ago, before the start of the spring season, Director of Men’s Golf Walter Chun said he believed that his team was good enough to go undefeated in the spring, despite winning only one tournament in the fall.
And this Tuesday, the team got one step closer to making that statement a reality as it secured a win in its first tournament of 2019, the Farms Collegiate Invitational, hosted by the University of San Diego.
The No. 17 Bears entered the tournament as the favorite, outranking all nine of the other teams participating. And the final score showed it — Cal finished the tournament at -21, with the next closest team, Loyola Marymount, at +15.
In addition to Cal’s victory, senior Collin Morikawa was the individual winner of the tournament by a dominant 11 strokes — the largest margin of victory of his collegiate career. This is Morikawa’s fourth individual victory in his Cal career, and he has now finished in the top five in all five tournaments this season.
“Being our first event of the spring season, I think I was able to stay focused and played smart throughout the entire tournament,” Morikawa said. “Usually with a long break, I tend to forget certain steps to my routine. However, this past week, I really maintained my calm and tried to stay patient.”
Morikawa was joined in the top five by redshirt seniors K.K. Limbhasut and Sebastian Crampton, who were tied for third, and redshirt junior Jamie Cheatham tied for fifth place. Freshman James Song, sophomore Kaiwen Liu and redshirt senior Ben Doyle, the final three Cal players at the invitational, also finished in the top 20.
“I am satisfied with how I played; my game is trending towards the direction that I wanted it to go, and it is a great start to the year for me,” Limbhasut said. “I need to improve on my putting because I had many opportunities to go low this week, but I didn’t convert.”
Despite their solid victory, the Bears still had areas they could improve upon. Cal continued to score high numbers on certain holes, which could hurt the Bears against tougher competition.
After the first day, Morikawa was only leading by a stroke, and Limbhasut and Crampton were in the top 10, but the second day is when Cal really shined. Everyone moved up in the rankings, except Morikawa, who extended his lead.
“I didn’t hit the ball great but kept it in play for the most part, which was very important at this course,” Morikawa said.” This was a great start to see where my game is at and where it will need to be heading into late spring and postseason.”
After this tournament, Morikawa was named Wednesday to the watchlist for the Ben Hogan Award, which is given annually to the top amateur men’s golfer in the country. Last year, Morikawa was one of three finalists for the award.
“Mr. Hogan is a man of great passion for golf and pursuing excellence,” Chun said in a press release. “It’s an honor for Collin to once again be considered for the prestigious Ben Hogan Award.”
The Bears hope to extend their two-game winning streak into their next competition and beyond. Next stop for Cal is the Southwestern Invitational on Feb. 25-26 in Westlake Village, California.
Akshara Majjiga covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].