Pac 12 Preview: Cal struggles under the bright lights

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No play has existed without conflict; every character must confront difficult situations and move past them. Sports seasons aren’t much different from Shakespearian tragedies; teams have their highs and lows.

Cal women’s golf has been no stranger to struggles in its fall season. The Bears played three tournaments in their first act, placing no higher than eighth in any nonconference competition.

Act 2 brought more promise as a change of scenery brought hope for more success on the course. But the tropical weather of Hawaii brought only the destructive monsoon that is Pac-12 women’s golf, a never-ending rain of top tier teams and players.

The Bears would place 10th at the event, tallying a mark of 45 strokes over par over the course of three rounds. Meanwhile, the rest of the Pac-12 demonstrated their prowess, with four teams shooting under par for the tournament.

Despite being down 2 strokes coming into the last day, No. 8 Arizona (-19) took the crown with a clutch 8 under in the third round to defeat No. 22 UCLA (-17) by 2 strokes. Elsewhere in the field, No. 2 Arizona State (-7) cruised to a third-place finish, while No. 5 USC (-1) and No. 1 Stanford (+4) also performed admirably.

Although the Bears struggled to put together a complete performance, there were flashes of success across the competition. Sophomore Katherine Zhu led the Bear charge with an +8 performance, the highest finish for a Cal player at the tournament.

Freshman Tzu-Yi Chang once again proved that she is destined for a starring role, putting together yet another promising showing against tough competition. Chang, hailing from Taiwan, shot 11 over for the tournament, good for 42nd place in the field. Although her score may not be eye-popping, Chang’s consistency to post quality scores as a freshman bodes well for the program’s future.

“I think (Chang) brings really good energy and really good status to this team,” said senior teammate Maria Herraez Galvez. “She has really high expectations about her game which I think just inspires all of us to get so much better every day.”

Elsewhere on the stage, sophomore Elena Arias broke out of her understudy role in her return from injury. Arias, who enjoyed one of the best freshman seasons in Cal women’s golf history last year, had been sidelined from the first couple of fall tournaments because of a foot injury.

She appears to be coming back into form, however, as she steadily regains her feel for the game. Arias’ play in the Pac-12 Preview, in which she shot 12 over (+1 in the final round), is just the next step on her road back to being a leader in Cal’s lineup.

Finished with the Pac-12 Preview and their fall season, the Bears now head into their winter intermission, a much-needed break to regroup. The team won’t play again until mid-February when it heads down south for the Guadalajara International Invitational.

Cal has gained a lot of valuable experience during the fall season; the nonconference tournaments have been a good way for the freshmen to receive competitive action and have allowed the Bears to mesh as a team. Yet the team will now have to set its sights on goals loftier than experience if it wants to have more success in the decisive spring season.

“We’re starting to really know each other as a team, so I think there is room for progress,” Galvez said. “But we have come a long way from where we started.”

The Bears look to carry this confident mindset into their spring season, their final act.

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