Under the Hawaiian skies with crystal clear ocean waters as the backdrop to one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, Cal crumbled. At the Pac-12 tournament this past week, the blue and gold looked to prove that they were a force to be reckoned with in the conference, but instead demonstrated that they’re among the bottom half with a mediocre performance at the Pac-12 preview.
The blue and gold cracked under the pressure of trying to outplay some of the best at their final tournament of the year. Cal finished in 10th place out of 11 teams at the tournament, with nonconference Hawaii as the only team to finish worse than the Bears.
Though the Cal women’s golf team as a whole struggled greatly throughout the week, there was a particular senior who shined at Nanea Golf Club and made Cal proud. Katherine Zhu closed out the season with a bang by finishing in a tie for sixth place for the tournament at 2 under par. Zhu came in with a mindset of wanting to take it all in and enjoying her last tournament of the season.
“Knowing the course and playing it a few times in the past definitely helped,” Zhu said. “I also associate the tournament with good memories; my freshman year, I was in contention.”
Zhu struggled a bit the first day shooting 3 over, but reeled it in on the second and third days, coming into the club house with an even and 5 under score, respectively. A large reason why the last two days of the tournament were so successful was her play on the greens. She received a note about putting from one of the assistant coaches after the first day, which she said really helped to turn her play around. Her 5 under round was one the best rounds of the entire tournament.
Zhu’s incredible final round was a big part of the team’s success on the final day. The tournament as a whole may have not gone the way the Bears expected it to, but they ended it on a high note. A top-three finish was a long shot to say the least, but that did not deter the blue and gold from bringing their best. They shot only 2 over as a team on that last day, ending the tournament at 41 over par.
“Our last round showed that we have the potential, and that was a good note to end the season on,” Zhu said.
The Bears came into the tournament confident after their performance at Stanford with high morale heading into the week. That confidence may have been a bit overstated, and morale can only take a team so far before it starts to get exposed: The inexperience with the course and youth of the Cal women’s golf team showed during the week.
Cal has no reason to be discouraged, though, and should not discount the fact that the field was very challenging for the week. A number of teams in the Pac-12 are ranked within the top 30 nationally, and the talent showed. Top-ranked Stanford took home the championship at Nanea, followed by USC, Arizona and Oregon. These teams have been near the top of the rankings all season long, so it was no surprise they each had strong performances to close out the season.
“People have positive mindsets, and their games are trending in the right direction,” Zhu said. “For the spring we will come back refreshed, refueled and ready to go.”
The season for the blue and gold has come to an end. The team had a lot of ups and downs but never stopped competing and has seen a lot of growth in itself. The women played a lot of golf this fall and will look to the off-season as a chance to rest and rejuvenate before everything ramps back up again in the spring.