Bears take advantage of par fives, capture 5th place in San Diego

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There’s an old saying that goes, “Fall down seven times, get up eight,” and it’s been an accurate portrayal of Cal’s season thus far. The Bears have done a good job of bouncing back from adversity all year, and after a disappointing finish at the Cabo Collegiate last week, Cal was able to right the ship at the Lamkin San Diego Classic.

Cal’s ability to take advantage on par fives were proven to be the difference maker. The Bears’ 19 under par on par fives was good for third-lowest score against the field. This performance powered No. 33 Cal to a fifth place finish among 19 schools. Getting back to a top-five finish bodes well for their confidence as the blue and gold get closer to the Pac-12 Championships. Cal finished ahead of No.19 Colorado State, No.18 BYU and No. 11 Arizona, while No. 37 Tennessee took first place.

The impressive par five play was sparked by Walter Chun, Cal’s director of men’s golf. Before competing in San Diego, Chun emphasized the importance of par fives by analyzing the Bears’ 2012-13 campaign, which featured 12 event wins.

“These guys know about that team,” Chun said. “I did some research and I printed out a bunch of results from that team and I wanted them to see the common themes. The guys were pretty quick to notice that they played the par fives really well. So my message was that the par fives are really important to play well and a bogey there can really hurt you.”

Max Homa, who is currently on the PGA tour, was one of the golfers from that 2012-13 team. Aside from his stats from his college days, Homa was able to offer some extra help to junior Kaiwen Liu. Liu struggled early on in the season, but has really found his swing as of late, finishing in the top 30 at the last three tournaments.

“I asked Walter to help me reach out to Max Homa,” Liu said. “I attribute my good play for the last few weeks to him because he was kind enough to talk with me and share some advice.”

Liu finished the tournament 14th overall, behind 14 birdies and an eagle. The junior from San Diego had his best round of the tournament in the second, where his eight birdies led to a 4-under par 68. Liu’s confidence is growing with experience, and he’s quickly become a reliable scorer for Cal.

Fellow San Diegan and redshirt senior Jamie Cheatham was the top scorer for Cal. The senior logged a 5 under par for the tournament, placing him at third overall. The third place finish marks the highest finish of his career. Cheatham ended on a high note with a 4 under par final round, which bumped him up nine spots on the leaderboard.

“My course management was my biggest strength,” Cheatham said. “The greens were really challenging so you had to make sure you didn’t leave it in the wrong place around the green. I made sure I left the ball below the hole so that I would be putting uphill.”

The Bears’ initial round was their worst of the tournament once again, but being tied for 11th place after the first was better than usual. They followed it up by shooting a 285(-3) in the second round, which shot them up to fourth on the leaderboards.

Things heated up in the third round, when Cal found themselves in the lead for a portion of the day. But the blue and gold faltered, totaling six bogeys in their last five holes of the day, allowing four schools to slip ahead of them at the very end.

Although the tournament didn’t end the way they would like it to, holding the lead in the final round is evident that Cal can compete with anyone. The Bears have two weeks to rest before they play at Stanford to compete in the Goodwin on March 26-28.

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