Coming into this week’s NCAA Myrtle Beach Regional, the No. 10 Cal men’s golf team was hoping to erase the disappointment from last year’s tournament — in which they finished 10th — and to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2016. A strong team performance this time around from the Bears saw them finish in fourth place, earning a chance to play in Arkansas for the national title.
Despite being seeded second behind No. 3 Wake Forest, Cal had to fight hard for a top-five finish. After the first round, they were tied for fifth, overcoming a shaky first seven holes. The team was led on the first day by redshirt senior KK Limbhasut, who was in a tie for sixth. The remaining four Cal golfers finished between 20th and 35th, placing the Bears further back on the leaderboard than they had hoped.
Cal fought back on the second day to gain sole possession of fifth place, three strokes ahead of Texas Tech and Oregon, who were tied for sixth. This was in large part due to Limbhasut, who retained his top-10 position at No. 7, and redshirt senior Sebastian Crampton, who jumped 16 spots to 13th place after two rounds.
Senior Collin Morikawa — the Pac-12 player of the year, Ben Hogan Award finalist and Jack Nicklaus Award semifinalist — wasn’t quite himself for the first two rounds and had trouble getting into form Monday and Tuesday.
As the No. 2 player in the country, Morikawa has led the team at almost every single tournament this season, including at the Pac-12 Championships most recently, where he earned individual medalist honors. Morikawa credits his team for keeping the Bears in it as he regained his footing for the final round.
“For me at least, I didn’t come out in the first two rounds really playing solid golf,” Morikawa said. “That’s what’s great about team golf: Having five guys on a team that I can trust and rely on when I have a bad day, it’s awesome.
The Bears had a 12-under final round — the second-best round of the day — to propel them to a fourth-place finish. Limbhasut, Crampton, Morikawa and sophomore Kaiwen Liu all finished the tournament in the top 15, led by Limbhasut, who finished in ninth — his third top-10 finish at the NCAA Regionals. Although Morikawa’s streak of top-10 finishes ended at 16, he extended his streak of top-20 finishes to 24 while recording Cal’s best round of the day.
“I knew I had to put my best golf out there if we were going to really give ourselves the best chance and not have to worry down the stretch,” Morikawa said. “That final round, I knew what I had to do, and I came out with a solid round, and I’m really excited and proud of our team to make it through and head back to nationals.”
Their top-five finish means that the Bears have one final tournament ahead of them this season: the NCAA Championships.
Crampton, Limbhasut and Morikawa all competed at the NCAA Championships in 2016, when Crampton and Limbhasut were sophomores and Morikawa was a freshman. This will be their final tournament wearing Cal colors, and they are primed to finish their collegiate careers on a high note.
“I’m really excited to put everything I can out there,” Morikawa said. “Being able to go to graduation this weekend — it’s going to be really special. I just want to make some good memories to finish it off.”
Akshara Majjiga covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].