Spending the spring season in Mexico usually spells trouble for college students. Many go down looking for success. Few come back better off than before.
This wasn’t the story for Katherine Zhu, however. And if she happened to be looking for a new spring vacation spot, she may have just found it.
The sophomore phenom made herself right at home down south of the border, putting together one of the best performances of her career at the IJGA Collegiate Invitational. Thanks to two stellar rounds in which she finished a shot under par, Zhu finished the tournament with a total score of -1, good for T-12th in the field.
“To go down and have Katherine Zhu be really ready to perform on a very consistent level just gave our whole team a lot of confidence,” said Cal head coach Nancy McDaniel. “That really lifts everybody else up and reminds us that the rest of the team can support her and follow her.”
This is the third straight event that Zhu has led the Bears in strokes. Yet, for the third straight time, the rest of the Bear golfers couldn’t quite follow her strong lead.
The Bears finished the three rounds at the Guadalajara Country Club placed in a tie for 11th place, a solid 30 strokes behind the champion Virginia Cavaliers. Pac-12 foes Arizona State and Stanford placed fourth and tied for fifth in the invitational, respectively.
Despite the relatively low finish for the team, however, the Bears still finished above three top-50 teams, a welcome takeaway from what was otherwise a tough weekend.
“Everyone knows they are capable players. Everyone knows and has done the work and are experienced and can all shoot par or under,” McDaniel added. “When people start believing in each other and believing in their coaches and that synergy starts, that’s when we are really going to click.”
Elsewhere on the course, freshman standout Tzu-Yi Chang overcame a rough opening round to finish at a respectable five over par. Aside from Zhu, Chang has been the most consistent Cal golfer and continues to gain experience and skill as she progresses through her freshman campaign.
Another bright spot for the squad came as the Bears finally found some teamwide consistency, posting scores of 296 (+8), 294 (+6), and 296 in their three respective rounds. This is a step in the right direction for the young Cal team, which has struggled to regularly put together complete performances in tournaments. By finding this consistency, Coach McDaniel can start to build off these strong performances and instill new skills into her golfers.
“In golf you just have to be patient and find what’s going well and continue to build on that,” McDaniel said. “Everybody has something they know they need to do in their game to get that consistency, but yet they all had some really good success in their first tournament.”
This was Cal’s last trip out of the southwest United States for the remainder of the season, though it does have a busy slate of tournaments on the horizon. The travel-weary Bears will stay in the area for their next event, traveling to Sacramento for the Gunrock Classic in just two weeks’ time.
Noah Parker covers women’s golf. Contact him at