After a season full of highs and lows for Cal men’s golf, the team will travel to the Aldarra Golf Club for the Pac-12 championship hosted by No. 8 Washington. The tournament will stretch across three days from April 25 to April 27. Three of the 12 participating teams are ranked among the nation’s top 20, including No. 4 Arizona State, No. 8 Washington and No. 17 Stanford.
Arizona will enter the tournament as the defending Pac-12 champions. The Wildcats took home both the team and individual championships last spring. Cal placed seventh in the team standings, with Aaron Du producing the best individual finish of seventh place.
The Bears had a tumultuous but promising season, as they have had both success and struggles throughout the spring. Following its road trip in Hawaii, Cabo and San Diego, the team coughed up a mere 15th place finish at the Goodwin, and a seventh place finish at the Western Intercollegiate. However, head coach Walter Chun affirmed that with these faults come new ways to develop the young squad.
“We’re making progress and that’s all you can ask for, these guys care a lot and maybe that’s why they get so nervous, but they’re working hard,” Chun said. “We’re not ranked where we should be, or where we hope to be, we’re not finishing in the top five or better as we hope for. But it’s all a progression, it’s not going to happen overnight but I know we’re getting better.”
While the team has had its ups and downs as a whole throughout the spring, its members have also produced stellar individual performances. Aaron Du was named Pac-12 golfer of the month for February thanks to his win at the John Burns Intercollegiate with an impressive performance of 66 (-6), 67 (-5) and 70 (-2).
Finigan Tilly, the resident veteran of the team, tied for ninth in a week where the Bears were stuck in a slump in San Diego. Sampson Zheng was ever so close to winning the Goodwin Intercollegiate, slightly edged out in the end by just two shots in his score (66, 66, 67-199, -11) to finish third overall.
The Pac-12 championship will possibly be the final tournament of the season for the Bears. However, that will not sway nor discourage them from competing at the highest level. They have beaten Stanford twice this spring alone, and have proven to be able to compete with ranked teams.
This young and talented squad is riding excellent momentum. Should the team manage to win the tournament, it will get an automatic bid to the NCAA regional tournament in May. A win would also secure the team its third Pac-12 championship in team history, and first since winning two consecutive years in 2012 and 2013.
“There’s just so much to improve on in the golf game. Even Collin Morikawa can tell you he’s got a lot to improve on. You can always try and drive it farther, you can hit it straighter, you can be better with your stroke game, you can be better with your speed,” Chun said. “As a whole, I want them to draw on these experiences and just slowly get better inch by inch, day by day.”
The tournament will feature 72 holes and be played in four rounds across the three days. Rounds one and two will be played Monday with tee times of 7 a.m. and 12 p.m., respectively. Round three will be played on Tuesday with a tee time of 10 a.m. and round four will be played on Wednesday with a tee time of 7:30 a.m.
For the Bears, there has been no shortage of adversity throughout the season. But overcoming these challenges serve as lessons for the team — lessons that can help them muster the grit to compete and the will to not go down without a fight.