Cal women’s golf season opened with uncertainty. Would the team’s new faces, comprising almost half of this year’s roster, be able to quickly adapt to their new team, or would results suffer at the onset of the 2022 campaign?
In the season-opening Olympic Club Invitational, the Bears revealed the answer: It was precisely their medley of veteran experience and fresh blood that guided Cal to a successful third-place finish. Through three rounds of golf, from Sept. 12-13, the unranked Bears displayed their capability to go head-to-head against the nation’s best, as they closely contested No. 5 UCLA and No. 11 San Jose State.
Cal came out of the gates at a breakneck pace. Three of the Bears’ six competitors placed in the top 10 individually after two rounds on the first day of play. Junior Cristina Ochoa, in particular, played spectacular golf — she shot two 69’s, tying for the third-best performance after day one. Just four strokes behind her were junior Mika Jin and graduate transfer Annika Borrelli, tied for ninth.
These stellar individual performances thrust Cal into second place, two strokes behind UCLA and with a three-stroke lead over third-place Pepperdine. The Bears were in pole position to challenge for the Olympic Club Invitational trophy on the tournament’s final day.
Ultimately, Cal came up short, relinquishing its second place spot in the process to San Jose State, which staged a late rally, shooting the tournament’s best round of golf to surge past both Cal and UCLA and claim first place. Cal finished the tournament in third place at 1-over par, just a shot behind its Los Angeles rivals.
“We acknowledged the closeness of the finish,” said head coach Nancy McDaniel in a press release. “Sometimes you need to finish on this end of it before it happens on the other end of it. San Jose State really got on a roll and we didn’t quite find that roll. When it’s that close, it gets a little frustrating.”
The tournament’s tantalizing finish may leave a bitter aftertaste in Cal’s mouth, but the undeniable quality of the blue and gold’s performance will still be a massive boon for their confidence. When all was said and done, four Cal players finished in the top 20 individually, and the team found itself on equal footing with top national programs in UCLA and San Jose State.
“It was a solid opening to our season,” McDaniel said. “There was some really good stuff going. I think they are starting to see where they belong.”
With the invitational dissipating any remaining question marks hanging over the team, Cal women’s golf looks set to launch a successful 2022 campaign. It will be essential to build on the fast start at the Olympic Club Invitational tournament as Cal prepares for its next opponent. The Bears will travel to Menlo Park on Sept. 29 to take on reigning national champion and bitter rival Stanford in the Big Match.