From Arizona to Illinois, the Cal men’s golf team is teeing off the fall season and looking to brush off the rust from summer break.
From Friday to Sunday, the Bears will participate in the OFCC/Fighting Illini Invitational at the Olympia Fields Country Club. After coming off of a tough ending to last week’s strenuous tournament, the team is ready to bounce back and emerge victorious.
This past weekend, the golfers’ challenges from the past year were especially evident. The team’s dynamic has substantially altered, mostly due to COVID-19 regulations. Having not eaten meals or traveled together, the team lost the spark that once made it a family. Thus, head coach Walter Chun has made team camaraderie a priority this season.
“We had a lot of restrictions that made the team feel alienated. For a team to really grow, they need to feel closer together to blossom,” Chun said. “We need to do what we are used to doing, like having team meetings and meals together. Through cohesion and camaraderie, good golf will come.”
Chun is looking forward to the OFCC Invitational, as it means more opportunities for the team to bond together through positive support and reinforcement. Despite dropping from seventh to 12th place on the last day of last weekend’s tournament, the Bears learned from their mistakes rather than dwelling on a loss.
“It is not necessarily the start we wanted,” said redshirt sophomore Costas Panay. “We are all really good players, and we need to carry ourselves like that. Last weekend, it was really about patience that we all kind of lost at some point, and whether we gained it back was up to us individually, and some didn’t.”
While Panay attributes some of the hardships to frustration over leaderboard presentations, he also accredits a drop in rank to the newness of the season.
“We hadn’t played a tournament since April, so it was fatigue and nerves to play through,” he said.
As this is just the second tournament of the year, the rust must be shaken off and replaced with confidence sooner rather than later.
“It was a little bit of rust,” Panay said. “A lot of our success is going to be from our experience and confidence.”
The team is looking to gradually improve throughout the season. While Chun and the men’s golf squad want to leave Illinois with a victory, the Bears will focus on improvement and technique in every round.
“If you had asked me last week, I would have been bummed on how we finished. But with any kind of success, you have to have failures,” Chun said. “Early success is not necessarily what I want. We want a peak in the postseason. If we can continue to get a little bit better and draw closer, it will meld into something special in May.”
Already touched down in Chicago, the blue and gold are ready to make Cal fans proud at the OFCC/Fighting Illini Invitational this weekend.
Alisa Steel covers men’s golf. Contact her at [email protected].