Cal ready to prove itself at Stanford Invitational

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Each round is a building process. This has been Cal women’s golf’s mindset in the 2019 season: learning from its mistakes and taking that experience into the next match. And with such a grueling gauntlet of early-season tournaments, this has been an important attitude to keep.

This is especially true for a young Bears team that is still looking to find its identity. Cal has struggled to find consistency throughout its early tournaments, battling with either sluggish starts or subpar finishes.

Yet from tough matches comes experience gained, and the underclassmen have been the main beneficiary of this early-season schedule. Freshman Tzu-Yi Chang has already shown that she can hang with the best, posting a top 30 finish at last week’s Molly Collegiate Invitational. Despite her lack of collegiate experience, she has been a driving force for the Bears this season and will factor into Cal’s success down the line.

On the other side of the spectrum, senior Maria Herraez Galvez has given the Bears not only on-field success but also much-needed leadership. Galvez served as the team’s anchor during the first couple of tournaments, bringing stability to a young team. She will also be called on to have a bounce-back performance after an uncharacteristic low finish at the Molly Collegiate.

All facets of Cal’s game will have to be on point for this upcoming weekend when they face some of the top teams in the country at the Stanford Invitational. Played at the nearby Stanford Golf Course, the tournament features many familiar foes, including seven Pac-12 opponents.

The host Cardinal come into the tournament the hottest of all. Stanford will be fresh off a dominant tournament victory at the Molly Collegiate, in which the Cardinal shot 26 strokes better than the next opponent.

Vying for the top individual spot at the tournament will be the Stanford duo of seniors Andrea Lee and Albane Valenzuela. Lee, who is ranked No. 1 in the world for amateur golfers, took home her ninth career title at the Molly Collegiate with a six under score. Holding her own, No. 3 world-ranked Valenzuela finished two under, good for third place.

Pac-12 foes Arizona, No. 17 Oregon State, No. 16 Oregon, No. 4 USC and No. 12 UCLA also will participate in the invitational. All four ranked teams will be top contenders for the Pac-12 championship.

With such a tough slate of opponents, the Bears will have to fix their mistakes on the course, especially near the green. Cal has struggled in the early season with its putting game, often putting itself into adverse situations by three-putting. The team will have to clean this part of its play to have a chance at contending with the strong tournament field.

Luckily for the Bears, the weather will finally be on their side. Last week at the Molly Collegiate Invitational, damp and cold conditions hurt the Bears, causing abnormally high scores. The outlook for Stanford looks much more playable, however, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s and dry fairways.

The invitational will take place this Friday through Sunday, with three rounds of golf to be played. This will be Cal’s final tune-up before Pac-12 play begins in Hawaii on Nov. 4.

Noah Parker covers women’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].