Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Don’t bring a rock either, even if the tournament is called the Gunrock Invitational.
In fact, you probably shouldn’t bring any weapons to a golf tournament. But in the end, it didn’t matter what Cal’s opponents brought to Sacramento, as the Bears dominated the field over the three-round Gunrock Invitational.
The Cal women’s golf team showed up at this week’s event, turning in a complete team effort to place first in the tournament — the Bears’ first tournament win in four years.
Sophomore Katherine Zhu brought the big guns for the Bears, as she continued her stellar play with a one under performance on the Del Paso Country Club course. Teammates Elena Arias and Maria Herraez Galvez weren’t far behind, putting together scores of +6 and +8, respectively.
All of this was a part of a surprising turnaround for a struggling Cal squad, which had limped into the tournament after an 11th-place finish at the IJGA Collegiate Invitational. This was a long time coming for the steadfast Bears, however.
“I think we are working to become a super committed team that is full of positive energy and when that fully takes over, then the team will be ready,” said Cal head coach Nancy McDaniel prior to the tournament. “There is an intangible called positive energy. When that gets going and when people start believing in each other and believing in their coaches, that synergy starts. That’s when we’re really going to click.”
Click they did. The team’s final tally of 23 strokes over par was 10 less than their next closest competitor. Even more impressively, the Bears put together the best team round of the whole tournament, posting a 286 stroke (-2) performance on their final day in Sacramento.
This couldn’t have come at a better time for the blue and gold, who were looking for some much-needed motivation heading into the latter half of their season. The team hasn’t enjoyed much success during the 2019-20 campaign, but McDaniel hopes this tournament victory will give her players the confidence needed to contend in the ever-competitive Pac-12.
“Obviously (at) the end of the season you want to be chosen for NCAA regionals. That is always the end of the year goal,” McDaniel said. “A culture of commitment is what we are doing every day. And whatever that brings, that brings. We will be happy if everyone brings that every day.”
The Bears will get another chance to showcase their newfound determination when they make the short trip to Fairfax, California for the Juli Inkster Invitational. The tournament, hosted by San Jose State, is right around the corner and will be played March 8-10.
Looking past this tournament, however, the Bears have a specific weekend circled on their calendars. During the last weekend of April, Cal will travel across the bay to participate in the Pac-12 Championships. The conference championship decides the fate of the blue of the gold, who need to perform up to par — literally and metaphorically — to have any chance of a postseason appearance.
This will entail overcoming some of the best teams in the conference, a feat the Bears have not been able to accomplish so far this year. Yet, this tournament has shown that Cal can compete at a high level — it just needs to translate this success into other events.
If they can do that, the Bears might just have a chance to be a dark horse come May.