The Cal men’s golf team has now won two straight tournaments, with two different players capturing individual medalist honors, and their season seems to finally be heading in the right direction. The Bears hope to keep on rolling as they take on some tougher competition this week at the Southwestern Invitational.
Despite seeming somewhat shaky in the season’s earlier showings, Cal seems to have finally found its spark. Director of men’s golf Walter Chun predicted an undefeated spring for the Bears and this will be put to the test Monday in Westlake Village, CA.
Unlike the last two tournaments, the Bears will undoubtedly face some competition for the tournament title this week. USC, ranked No. 6 by the NCAA, and Pepperdine, ranked No. 14, both outrank the No. 15 Bears, but the Bears are trending up. They moved up in the rankings after their dominant 36 stroke victory at the Farms Collegiate Invitational several weeks ago.
Still, Pepperdine and USC are likely to challenge the Bears’ momentum. Cal recently faced Pepperdine at their home invitational, the Alister MacKenzie Invitational, where the Waves got the better of the Bears even after their record-setting 26-under first round. Pepperdine came back with a 22-under-par final round to pull ahead and win the invitational with Pepperdine’s R.J. Manke edging out Cal’s senior Collin Morikawa on the last day to win individual medalist honors.
Morikawa is currently ranked No. 2 by Golfstat, and can turn his tournament winning streak to two this week. But USC’s Justin Suh, also ranked in the top five at No. 4, will likely also be looking for a win.
Joining Morikawa at the tournament is redshirt senior and Pac-12 Men’s Golfer of the Month for November Sebastian Crampton, who is coming off of a strong showing at the Ka’anapali Classic Collegiate Invitational where he won the overall tournament. Redshirt senior K.K. Limbhasut, redshirt junior Jamie Cheatham, freshman James Song and sophomore Kaiwen Liu, who is competing as an individual, will also be playing. Limbhasut, Crampton and Cheatham all finished in the top five at their last tournament, the Farms Collegiate Invitational, with Liu and Song finishing in the top 20 as well. This proves to be a strong lineup and similar to the one that has now won back-to-back tournaments.
In addition to the tournament victory, Morikawa was named to the Ben Hogan Award Watch List on Feb. 13. Last season, he was one of three finalists for the award, and he was one of ten semifinalists the season before. The award will be given to the top collegiate golfer in the twelve-month period between June 2018 and May 2019. The semifinalists for the award will be announced in April, with a lot of golf left to play between now and then.
In the meantime, the Bears are likely excited to prove themselves among an elite group this Monday and Tuesday, keeping up the momentum they hope will carry them through the Pac-12 Championships and beyond this spring.
Akshara Majjiga covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].