After a less-than-ideal performance at the Winter Classic in Arizona last week, the blue and gold started off cold at the Stanford Dual Invitational, going down 14 strokes in the morning round against Stanford and San Jose State to finish last in the tournament. Not appearing rusty despite their 373 days away from competition due to COVID-19, the Cardinal was able to secure a victory with +23-to-par and a combined stroke score of 59. This mark was 14 strokes better than Cal’s. Ultimately, the Bears were left to head back home with yet another disappointing performance.
The Stanford Dual Invitational consists of 54 holes of stroke play with a par 71, conditions that have historically proven to be a mismatch for the Bears’ style of play. Last year, the Bears finished below all eight Pac-12 teams that participated in this tournament. In the face of Cal’s consistent shortcomings at the Stanford Dual Invitation, one player has managed to challenge the past and shape her own success: junior Katherine Zhu.
Last year at the Stanford invitational, Zhu finished the tournament at 1-over-par 214 for the 54-hole tournament but ended play 10 strokes behind Stanford’s tournament champion, Angelina Ye. This year, however, Zhu was able to match her rival by tying her for sixth, showing remarkable growth and development in her play. Nevertheless, a new opponent was introduced to her in the form of Stanford freshman Sadie Englemann, who finished off the tournament tied for first alongside her sophomore teammate Brooke Seay.
The star junior consistently put up strong numbers in her play to secure good positions for Cal in her last two tournaments, in contrast with the inconsistent performances by the rest of the team. Even with an impressive eagle by Elena Arias, five out of seven of the Bears couldn’t push through to reach the top half of the table. Even sophomore Jasmine Lew hitting 1-under-par for the blue and gold in her second round wasn’t enough to pull the Bears out of their 14-stroke deficit as the Cardinal and the Spartans continued to push forward in their quest for victory.
These subpar performances reveal themselves in Cal’s undesirable scoring average of 77.3 points per round individually in their last two tournaments, which came short of matching the competitive 76.03 scoring average at the Stanford Dual Invitational. In spite of this average, Zhu shone like a diamond in the rough. She boasted a 74.8 average, the only average that bested that of the tournament average. In the end, Zhu once again pulled ahead of her team, finishing T6 in the 20-player tournament, followed by Cristina Ochoa in ninth and Arias and Lew in 12th and 13th, respectively.
Although the score tells one story, the development that the players have seen in this tournament is more valuable than any win. With rekindled experience of dealing with their local rivals, the Bears will look to take on the rest of the teams in the Pac-12 with a firm understanding of what they need to do and how they’ll achieve it.
Dominique Tordjmann covers women’s golf and esports. Contact him at [email protected]