The first swing of a new season can be daunting and requires weeks of mental preparation. Add on the challenge of traveling states away to compete in an unfamiliar place with weather much different than you’re used to, and the swing becomes even more intimidating.
Under the hot New Mexico sun, Cal women’s golf swung into the new season, with slightly disappointing results to show for it.
The Bears attended the Dick McGuire Invitational from Sept. 13 to 14, playing against 15 other schools on the University of New Mexico’s Championship Course. Their competitors included BYU, Colorado, Pepperdine, San Diego State and San Jose State. None of the participating teams were nationally ranked following the end of the 2020-21 season by Golfstat, though Pac-12 teams not participating at the invite — Arizona State and Arizona — both made it into the top 25, placing 8th and 13th, respectively.
Cal was unable to make the most of the situation and exploit the lower-ranked competition this week in New Mexico. The team finished 10th with an overall score of 885 after shooting 21-over behind Texas State’s 880 at 16-over. BYU took home the tournament with a team score of 858, shooting an impressive 6-under and starting off with a victory for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
BYU came from behind to secure the win. After the first day of shooting, it was ranked fourth with a score of 578 and a shooting count of 2-over. New Mexico, San Diego State and San Jose State were teams who all had better scores than the Cougars. BYU stepped it up in the final round with help from senior Allysha Mae Mateo, who finished the course shooting 5-under 67. Senior Annick Haczkiewicz posted a 2-under 70, propelling BYU toward first place. As a team, BYU shot an impressive 8-under in the final round, adding 280 more points to its score and emerging as team champion of the Dick McGuire Invitational.
Pepperdine sophomore Kaleiya Romero narrowly became the event’s individual champion. Romero beat BYU’s Lila Galeai on the first playoff hole once the two were tied after the final round at 10-under for the tournament.
The Bears did not have the same success or underdog story as BYU. The team was tied for fifth place following the first day of competition before falling to 10th. Freshman Jieming Yang and senior Katherine Zhu were the team’s top finishers, tying for 26th place. Four other golfers shot 4-over for the tournament, sharing Yang and Zhu’s score of 220 and 26th place.
Zhu started the invitational off strong: In the first round, she shot 3-under 69, accumulating six birdies and three bogeys. Her performance wavered during the second round, and she only managed one birdie. Zhu ended the first day of competition on par and tied for 15th place. Yang also seemed like a strong contender during the first round, scoring 73, only to fall during the second when she shot 4-over par.
The Bear’s top qualifier, junior Tzu-Yi Chang, withdrew from the tournament after eight holes due to a leg injury.
Cal’s performance this week left much room for improvement. The team has the potential and means to win, as evidenced by its strong first round performance. It just needs to stay consistent and maintain momentum throughout the entire tournament — eliminate a few sloppy strokes, and the Bears are serious contenders. The team will spring back into action Sept. 27 to 28, hosting the Molly Collegiate Invitational at Bayonet and Black Horse in Seaside. Hopefully, the Bears’ next return to the course comes with better results and a stronger showing.