As the year winds down and winter approaches, the weather starts to change in Berkeley. The temperature drops, the sun shines less and gray clouds appear more regularly.
But the Cal women’s golf team gets to escape the Berkeley weather for a bit as it will travel to sunny, tropical Hawaii for a showdown with the rest of the Pac-12 to cap off its fall season. The team is hoping for clear skies when it comes to the conditions — and its play.
Nov. 1 marks the start of a three-day tournament for the blue and gold. Head coach Nancy McDaniel spoke about the excitement the team had about playing in such a place, but the Bears must not take this opportunity lightly. They are competing against the rest of the teams in the Pac-12 –– performing well in this tournament means bragging rights and a chance to prove that they are able to compete with some of the best.
“To have a Pac 12 preview means a lot, to see where you are after a fall season. We put a lot of work in and see where we fall in the conference,” McDaniel said.
Nine Pac-12 teams are currently ranked in the nations’ top 50 for women’s golf this year, with most notably rival Stanford at No. 1. Cal sits at No. 29 nationally, which is good for seventh in the Pac-12.
There are several teams ahead of the blue and gold in the rankings, and a good showing this week could potentially bump them up a few spots. It could also propel the team forward moving into the spring. This tournament is a good way to measure the team’s growth and get a sense of where it stands in the conference before next season.
The Bears have only two players that have played this course before: seniors Katherine Zhu and Elena Arias. Due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, it has been a while since teams have been able to travel to this tournament. As such, there is great anticipation surrounding it. But along with the excitement also comes inexperience and unfamiliarity.
“It’s always good to go to a new place with new grass and different weather,” McDaniel said. “Golf is just that broad. You have to be able to bring it to every situation, so this is exciting to go and play on different stuff.”
McDaniel highlighted the importance of the practice round for her players to help them navigate the conditions and a course that is foreign to the majority of the young team.
The grass in Hawaii is different, so that will affect a lot of the shots in and around the green. It will be pivotal for Cal to find success there to have a shot at staying in contention with the rest of the pack.
The trek out to Hawaii for the tournament will be the culminating event in the fall season for the blue and gold. They will look to put their best foot forward this week and challenge their other high level opponents. Even though it has not had a top three finish yet this season, Cal is feeling like it is in a perfect position to make a deep run this weekend.
“Feeling really prepared because we have had some good repetitions in the fall recently and just starting to accumulate some consistency, we’ll see if we can put it all together at the Pac 12 preview,” McDaniel said.
The Bears look to close out the season on a high note with a strong showing at the Nanea Golf Club on the island of Hawaii.
Emery Goulet covers women’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].