The Cal women’s golf team is looking to make a statement this week as it makes its 20th straight trip to the NCAA Regionals. Coming off a disappointing ninth-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships, Cal is poised to make a strong showing in Alabama this week.
The Bears have sent representatives to the past five NCAA Championships, and they have the opportunity to extend that streak to six this week. The top six teams this weekend as well as the top three individuals who are not from the qualifying schools will have the opportunity to represent their schools in the NCAA Championships in Arkansas, which start May 17.
When Cal last played in the NCAA Regionals in Alabama, now-senior Marianne Li won the event as a freshman, which qualified her for the NCAA Championships. Having played at the NCAA Championships in 2017 as well, she will be a key player to watch as the Bears fight for their first team qualification since then.
Cal is currently the 12th-seeded team in the field. Led by senior Cindy Oh, who currently has the best stroke average by a senior in program history, the Bears may have to shake their habit of weak first-round play if they hope to come out at the top of a competitive NCAA Regionals pool.
This is a habit that has plagued the Bears all season. It was especially evident at the Pac-12 Championships in mid-April, where they underperformed in the first round and improved as the the day went on. The poise of Oh allowed for the strong finish after an otherwise disappointing tournament, and her presence and experience should be key at regionals this week.
Despite struggling in the Pac-12 Championships, freshman Katherine Zhu will undoubtedly help the Bears’ chance of qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Currently on pace for the lowest scoring average by a freshman in Cal history, Zhu had five top-five finishes before placing at No. 41 in the previous competition.
Closing out the lineup are freshman Elena Arias and junior Maria Herraez Galvez. Galvez is the only other Bear in the lineup with NCAA Championships experience, having played in the tournament as a freshman.
All in all, Cal hopes to rise back to its highest after the disappointing performances at the Pac-12 Championships. The NCAA Regionals run through Wednesday at Saugahatchee Country Club in Opelika, Alabama.
Akshara Majjiga covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].