The Bears have gone from having sharp claws to merely soft paws. After a promising start to the year in September with a third-place finish at the USF Intercollegiate, the blue and gold crawl out of October looking dull, coming up short at the Stanford Intercollegiate this past weekend. The Pac-12 Preview in Hawaii will give the Bears an opportunity to sharpen their claws and put on a show before the end of the fall season.
The Nanea Golf Club on the beautiful Big Island awaits the blue and gold. The Bears will round out their fall season with the coastal par-73 course, battling with a pack of top teams. Out of the 11 other schools participating in the tournament, six are ranked in the top 20, including No. 1 Stanford. There will be nothing but stiff competition for Cal, and stands as its last chance to prove it can hang with the best before an extended break.
If the blue and gold send out the same lineup they have so far this season, all five golfers will be in unfamiliar territory. Last year, the Bears’ squad for this tournament looked completely different — Cal’s go-to squad this year will have to learn the course on the fly.
Nevertheless, Cal will be hoping to replicate the final round it posted last year: a 294 (+2) that gave it the second-best round of the day. Cal won’t be attempting to repeat the first two rounds, though, as those added up to +39 and netted it an overall 11th-place finish out of 12 teams.
The Bears will also look for one of their golfers to emulate then-senior Katherine Zhu’s magical performance. A 5-under final round (second-best out of all individuals on the final day) helped Zhu end at -2 and vaulted her into a tie for 6th place.
Coming off of solid performances at Stanford, junior Mika Jin and sophomore Jieming Yang could be in line to make the leap into the upper echelon of the individual leaderboard in a similar fashion to Zhu. Jin and Yang both had relatively good outings in Palo Alto, with the former leading the Bears at 4-over, and the latter following up a stellar final round at Blessings Intercollegiate to finish at 6-over. The two are heading into the final contest of the fall season hoping to build upon their recent success and make a splash in Hawaii.
On the flip side, a downward trend has appeared for Cal’s usual upper-tier players: Annika Borrelli and Cristina Ochoa had relatively subpar performances at Stanford. The graduate transfer Borrelli trailed all other Cal golfers with a +15, seemingly not on her A-game. Her showing this past weekend was a far cry from the level fans have grown accustomed to seeing — a level that garnered her the second-best Cal finishes at both USF and Blessings. She’ll look to bounce back in a big way on a big stage.
Ochoa, on the other hand, demonstrated her talent at USF, finishing 6-under, but showed more mediocre results at Blessings and Stanford. Despite this, it’s clear that Ochoa has the skill to match that performance, facing high expectations for another scoring explosion.
Pitted against teams they will see once again at the Pac-12 Championships in April, the Bears will try to leave their mark on the Pac-12 women’s golf scene going into a hiatus until after the winter break.
After the recently disappointing placing at Stanford and historically subpar results at the Pac-12 Preview and Pac-12 Championships, many of the opposing teams may well be writing Cal off for another bottom-feeding placement. The three-day tournament starting Halloween Monday will be the Bears’ opportunity to show the rest of the Pac-12 that they can compete on their level.