Heading into Tuesday, the second day of the Southwestern Invitational in third place, Cal was less than satisfied with its rough start. The 36-hole first day had been long, and the Bears struggled somewhat with staying focused, making big numbers throughout the afternoon. Still, they were in contention, but nine strokes was a large margin to make up if Cal was to continue its winning streak.
And, despite fighting its way back as a team to a one-stroke lead over No. 6 USC with only two holes left, No. 15 Cal was unsuccessful in coming away with the win by a single stroke, finishing the tournament in second place at 3-under.
Still, Director of Men’s Golf Walter Chun was proud of his team’s accomplishments. He noted the difficulty of staying patient and motivated after a weaker first-round showing, and he was happy with how each member of his team fought back.
“I give the guys credit for hanging tough and making birdies and really being patient,” Chun said. “Being nine shots back is a lot. They just kept chugging away at it. They never lost confidence.”
Specifically, he thought his team showed depth, which is encouraging for him because this is particularly important at bigger events such as the upcoming Pac-12 Championships. Senior Collin Morikawa also realized the importance of being able to trust his teammates to have his back, even in difficult tournaments like this one.
“A lot has to do with just believing in each other. You’re able to depend on the other guys who are going to be in the lineup,” Morikawa said. “Not every round is going to be the way you want it, but to have guys who can go low, that can play some good golf when you’re struggling, is awesome.”
Coming into this tournament, the Bears had a great deal of confidence. This was their second tournament of the month in Southern California, and coming off back-to-back victories, the team understood the game plan it needed to follow in order to win. According to Morikawa, however, as the team got tired Monday, the Bears’ game plan fell apart as they made some unusual mistakes.
A solid final round from all the golfers brought the Bears very close to their third consecutive victory. Taking notes from the first day of competition, the players were able to improve upon their scores from the first two rounds. Redshirt senior Sebastian Crampton noted that this comeback showed the Bears’ perseverance as well as their ability to compete with the best teams in the country.
“We had been in this position before: being a couple of shots behind a good team,” Crampton said. “And we just knew that if we stuck to our game plan and stayed aggressive, we’d have a good chance.”
Despite the narrow second-place finish, Morikawa, Crampton and sophomore Kaiwen Liu, who was competing as an individual, were all in the top four. This extends Morikawa’s streak of top-five finishes to six and top-10 finishes to 12; it also extends Crampton’s streak of top-four finishes to three.
If Cal had managed to secure this victory in Westlake Village, California, this would have been the first time Cal had a three-match winning streak since 2013. Instead, their winning streak stopped at two, and now, the team is looking to start a new one as the team enters its next invitational against an elite field of competitors March 3 in Las Vegas.
Akshara Majjiga covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].