Cal men’s golf got its first taste of the postseason Monday through Wednesday at the Pac-12 championships in Oregon. Coming off a strong season in which they placed in the top five in eight of their 10 stroke-play events, the No. 12 Bears are hoping to make some noise this postseason, especially with three seniors graduating this spring.
The Bears showed some real depth this week as they came away with a third-place finish, led by senior Collin Morikawa, whose first-place finish marked the fourth time in program history a Bear has won the Pac-12 championships.
Cal entered the Pac-12 championships confident. Its ultimate goal for the season was to qualify for the NCAA championships and compete for the title, and the Pac-12 championships were the first step in that process.
After leading for much of the first round, Cal ultimately ended the first day in third place, trailing behind Stanford and UCLA, who were tied for the lead. The Bears had three players in the top 15 in Morikawa, redshirt senior Sebastian Crampton and sophomore Kaiwen Liu. Morikawa was sixth, four strokes out of the lead after the first two rounds.
“It was a solid day and a complete team effort,” said director of men’s golf Walter Chun in a press release. “We had it going early on but left some shots out there midround in the morning. I liked how we bounced back in the afternoon to stay in the mix.”
The third round Tuesday was when the Bears truly showed their strength. Morikawa started the day with an eagle on the first hole, setting the tone for the rest of the round in which he scored a 7-under 64 and gained control of the leaderboard.
Led by Morikawa, the team finished the day in first place, three strokes ahead of UCLA. All six Cal golfers were in the top 30, and all six had under-par rounds. This brought Cal to a score of 15-under heading into the final round.
The Bears, however, couldn’t keep up that level of dominance. In the fourth and final round, only Morikawa scored under par, and Cal fell back behind Stanford and UCLA again to finish the tournament in third.
Despite making bogeys in each of his first three holes in the last round, Morikawa had four birdies in his final eight holes to capture the Pac-12 championships individual title.
“This is definitely one of the most special wins so far,” Morikawa said after the win. “To have the Pac-12s back at Eugene Country Club where the NCAAs were held my freshman year and to come back three years later and win is very memorable. I knew I was playing well this week and just wanted to put everything out there.”
This is Morikawa’s second win of the season and 16th straight top-10 finish. Heading into the tournament, he was clear that his goal was to win, and he was able to do just that, eventually finishing four strokes ahead of Utah’s Kyler Dunkle, who came in second.
All six Cal golfers eventually finished in the top 35, and their strong third round bodes well for the Bears heading into the NCAA regionals. The team will find out Wednesday which of six sites they will be playing at for the NCAA regionals and will return to action May 13, hoping to continue Cal’s streak of top-five finishes to punch a ticket to the May 24 NCAA championships.
Akshara Majjiga covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].