Since the beginning of the season, the No. 10 Cal men’s golf team’s goal was clear: qualify for the NCAA Championships and compete for the national title. This week, the Bears finally have the chance to do just that in Arkansas.
Coming off of a rocky fourth-place finish at the NCAA Myrtle Beach Regional, the Bears know that their depth as a team allowed them to make up for some unusually underwhelming individual performances. To win a national title, however, the team will need solid efforts from all five Cal golfers.
“Our end goal is to win,” said senior Collin Morikawa. “There’s no doubt about that. But there’s a lot of steps to that. There’s a lot of rounds — a lot of golf. We’re going to have to go out there and find our game plan.”
This is the first time Cal has qualified to compete at the NCAA Championships since 2016. At the time, Morikawa, redshirt senior Sebastian Crampton and redshirt senior KK Limbhasut — all of whom will be competing in their last tournaments as Cal golfers — were part of the lineup as freshmen and sophomores.
That year, the team finished tenth, missing the match-play portion of the tournament, which is reserved for the top eight teams.
Having finished in the top five in eight of 10 regular-season match-play tournaments — as well as placing in the top five in both of their postseason events, with a third-place finish at the Pac-12 Championships and fourth at the NCAA Regional — the Bears have shown that they have the skills to compete at a high level this year.
Specifically, last week at the NCAA Regional, the team had four of its five golfers finish in the top 15, including the three seniors and sophomore Kaiwen Liu.
Morikawa, in particular, is looking to bounce back in this tournament after struggling at regionals — his 14th-place finish there ended a streak of 16 consecutive top-10 finishes.
Despite the rough outing, as the No. 3 golfer in the country by Golfstat, the Pac-12 Player of the Year and the Ben Hogan Award finalist, Morikawa is sure to be prepared for a strong showing this week.
Limbhasut was especially impressive at the NCAA Regional, leading the team with a ninth-place individual finish — his third top-10 finish at the NCAA Regional in his career.
This is the final event of the Bears’ postseason, and they hope to cap off a successful season with one final victory as a team.
For the three seniors in particular, this tournament will be bittersweet as they move on from Cal, hopefully with a national championship under their belts.
“This year is different because I sense they have a chip on their shoulders,” said director of men’s golf Walter Chun before the Pac-12 Championships. “It would mean a lot for them to play for a title their senior year.”
Akshara Majjiga covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].