Cal men’s golf, Tilly work to complete the puzzle at Pasatiempo

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Santa Cruz County’s Pasatiempo Golf Club, consistently ranked as one of the top 100 courses in the United States since its creation in 1929, has seen its fair share of tournaments. In fact, the San Jose State-hosted Western Intercollegiate began at Pasatiempo in 1947 and was played annually until COVID-19 put a halt to it last year.

This year, though, the Western Intercollegiate is back from April 12-14. And it’s expected that this event will be different from most in the past since the majority of the field is composed of teams on the West Coast who had no fall seasons or time to assemble their typical team chemistry.

But for as inexperienced as the Bears are entering Pasatiempo for their final regular-season tournament this year, they’ve had a silent leader in senior Finigan Tilly. He hasn’t led them in scoring as he did last year amid three top-ten finishes, though. Instead, Tilly’s season narrative has aligned with that of the rest of his team — competing for the blue and gold has brought about stumbles that individual play during the pandemic could never have prepared him for. He has led by example, though, showing the mental fortitude and prowess of a mature individual with years of college golf under his belt. 

“Fin is awesome,” said assistant coach Chris Massoletti. “He wouldn’t be described as a vocal leader, he’s more quiet in his own persona. But he leads by example. He’s hopefully rubbing off in a good way on the younger guys — he’s working probably harder than he ever has.”

Tilly logged a fourteen-under winning performance at the State Fair Amateur as an individual last fall, still months before Pac-12 golf was cleared to play. But as with his teammates, a return to team golf has not been so kind to him. The senior finished ranked No. 109 individually in the nation according to Golfweek/Sagarin last year, and he has since fallen to No. 309. 

“You can’t replicate time and experience,” Massoletti said. “There’s a different pressure of wearing a Cal uniform and being in the lineup, and that’s led to a slow start for us.”

As Tilly and the Bears try to find consistency in their lineup and establish confidence heading into the weekend at Pasatiempo, they know this final regular-season event will determine their performance at Pac-12s later in April.

“We want to play well enough to be in contention. We want to win, obviously, but that’s another story. We’re looking for some momentum,” Massoletti said. “We don’t have to go out and everybody shoots ten under on the first day, but we need five consistent solid scores. The next step forward for this group is getting a taste of that, so hopefully we can bring some of that energy to Pac-12s.”

Ultimately, the pitfalls of a more-than-atypical season thus far can be swept under the rug as learning experiences. With one last tournament before the Pac-12 championships, though, the Bears have a shot to show their identity as a group. The anxiety of being a member of the blue and gold is wearing off, and Cal men’s golf just needs to settle into its place.

“There are a lot of unusual things that have led us to where we are today,” Massoletti said. “But the guys need to get more comfortable being uncomfortable — and sooner.”

Ethan Waters covers men’s basketball and men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ewate1.