Cal eager to bounce back in San Diego, fueled by extra motivation

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The makeup of Cal’s student population ranges from cities all across the nation to foreign countries across the world. For students not from the Bay Area, it’s hard to find time to visit home amid the busy school semester. This will not be the case for four Cal golfers on Monday and Tuesday, however, as they will be visiting their hometown to compete in the Lamkin San Diego Classic.

Jamie Cheatham, Kaiwen Liu, James Song and Kento Yamawaki are all from the San Diego area, and the San Diego Country Club is less than an hour away from the high schools they attended. Cal director of men’s golf Walter Chun is eager to see how his players perform in their hometown.

“I look forward to seeing how we play in San Diego,” Chun said. “We’ve kind of been out of our element in Hawaii and Cabo. It’ll be nice for these guys to be back home, playing in a familiar environment with family and friends there.”

Being close to home might be the spark Cal needs to get over the first round slump. Cal has seen a regression in its past three tournaments; from finishing fourth earlier this spring to placing 11th in their recent bout, it’s clear the Bears are trending in the wrong direction.

The best way to accomplish a favorable first round is to improve on par fives. The Bears have played well on par threes and par fours over the past three tournaments, but when it comes to par fives, they’ve been mediocre at best against the field.

“You can’t compete at a high level if you don’t play the par fives very well,” Chun said. “Next tournament in San Diego, we have to play the par fives better. We can’t afford to give away those shots to the field. We’re playing at a disadvantage if we’re over par on the par fives.”

Junior Finigan Tilly will look to lead the Bears by continuing his elevated play in San Diego. Tilly is the only player from Cal to finish within the top 40 individually in each of the last three tournaments. His best finish was fourth overall in the Southwestern Invitational.

No. 33 Cal will be competing against 18 other programs, including five schools ranked in the top 20. The Bears will be up against some familiar faces, including: No. 3 Arizona State, No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 11 Arizona and No. 18 BYU. Texas A&M in particular will pose a challenge for the blue and gold, as the Aggies have been on a tear finishing first and second in the last two tournaments. Cal has yet to finish ahead of either Arizona or Arizona State in any of the spring tournaments thus far, and the team will be looking to flip the script in San Diego.

The Lamkin San Diego Classic will be the Bears’ third tournament in 19 days. Once they conclude in San Diego on Tuesday, they’ll have two full weeks to prepare for the Goodwin Intercollegiate hosted by the rival Cardinal. The Bears will compete in Stanford on March 26-28.

Nico Alba covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].