With the spring season coming to a close, Cal is now faced with its biggest obstacle thus far: the Pac-12 championships. Having suffered two consecutive, disappointing results, the odds are heavily stacked against the Bears.
The Pac-12 championships will be played between April 17-19 at the par-72, 6,543-yard Papago Golf Club in Phoenix, Arizona. This very same venue was used last month for the Ping/ASU Invitational where the Bears suffered severe setbacks and finished 11th out of 17 teams.
If the Bears are to make a difference this time around, they must work on addressing their past mistakes in Phoenix. At the Ping/ASU Invitational, it was clear that Cal’s short game around the greens was the main culprit in preventing the Bears from achieving their desired result.
Thus, Cal must use its past experience at the Papago Golf Club to improve its putting whilst also ensuring that its long game is also up to standard.
Additionally, it would be ideal for the Bears if the lineup consisted of veteran golfers who are familiar with the course. Head coach Nancy McDaniel acknowledged this — and consequently put four Ping/ASU veterans in the Cal’s five-person team for the Pac-12 championships.
Junior Cristina Ochoa, who was the highest-ranked Cal golfer at the Ping/ASU Invitational, is guaranteed to start for Cal at the championships. Ochoa’s exceptional knowledge of the golf course combined with her ability to overcome difficult situations should prove vital in reviving a struggling Cal team.
“Cristina has great perspectives and has the ability to bring that attitude into the sport,” McDaniel said. “She also really, really loves golf and you can really tell when you’re watching her.”
Earning a spot next to Ochoa is graduate Annika Borrelli — the highest-ranked Cal golfer at the Silverado Showdown and another veteran of the Papago Golf Club. The three-time NCGA Player of the Year Award winner has played in every single tournament this season and is looking to keep her momentum going.
The two remaining Papago veterans, junior Mika Jin and freshman Olivia Lee, will also be included in the lineup for this tournament. Jin, like Ochoa, has participated in every tournament this season so far.
Despite her absence at the Ping/ASU tournament, senior Kristine Tran will also be playing alongside the four veterans. This tournament marks Tran’s first tournament this month for Cal as she looks to take the golf course alongside her fellow Bears.
Freshman Adora Liu, although not included in the lineup, will be on standby as a substitute golfer for the team — the 2022 San Francisco City Championship winner should never be underestimated.
The Bears can expect fierce competition ahead as they play alongside other high-ranking teams in the Pac-12 conference. This includes the very best team in the nation, No. 1 Stanford, led by the top-ranked player in the country: Rose Zhang. Other top teams in the competition include No. 6 Oregon, No. 12 Arizona State and No. 14 USC.
If the Bears really want to perform well in Phoenix next week, especially in the face of stiff competition, they must also work on their consistency. As observed earlier this month at the Silverado Showdown, inconsistent performances between rounds from the Cal lineup proved to be detrimental to the final scoreline; the Bears came in 10th out of 17 teams.
Being back in Phoenix will give the Bears the opportunity for redemption. Will Cal redeem itself at the very same venue where it has fallen short? Or will the Arizona sun once again prove to be too hot for the Bears to handle?