Golfweek Conference Challenge Gives Cal a Chance to Shed Last Season's Inconsistency

Photo: <b>Junior Eric Mina</b> leads the Bears into the Golfweek Conference Challenge after posting an average round of 73.1 last season.
Victoria Chow/File
Junior Eric Mina leads the Bears into the Golfweek Conference Challenge after posting an average round of 73.1 last season.

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This summer, the Cal men's golf team practiced sky-high and low-cutting golf shots and learned how to read the slopes of lightning-fast putting greens.

The Bears' work was all in preparation for the 2009 season, which could be their best since they won the national championship in 2004.

The team's lineup is virtually untouched aside from the loss of a few seniors. Led by returning players like senior John Murphy and junior Eric Mina, the Bears have a seemingly tangible desire for revenge after a 20th-place finish at the NCAA West Regional Championship last season.

And that revenge may come to fruition with the addition of Cal's 2009 recruiting class, which boasts Brandon Hagy, Max Homa, Curtis Loop, Brian Murphy and Michael Weaver. All five were highly ranked junior golfers.

"To say that I am pleased with this 2009 recruiting class would be an understatement," coach Steve Desimone said. "This certainly has a chance to be one of the best recruiting classes in the country."

Beginning Aug. 30, at the Golfweek Conference Challenge in Riverside, Iowa, the Bears will have the opportunity to silence the naysayers and pessimists of last season with a strong showing at this new event in the competitive realm of collegiate golf. This 54-hole stroke-play tournament, which will be played at Blue Top Ridge, will include 15 teams from 15 different conferences.

If the Bears can capture this title, they will send a strong message to the collegiate golf world. Cal is still trying to redefine its status after its previous season, which would most accurately be characterized by ebb-and-flow inconsistency. It often appeared that when one player was "on," another was "off," or that solid driving accuracy accompanied poor putting in a given tournament.

Arguably the Bears' biggest Achilles' heel last season was their inability to begin tournaments on a high note. On the opening day of most of their three-day events, Cal golfers made mistakes that ultimately crippled their chances. Their achievements on the final days of tournaments weren't enough.

Whether the Bears have learned from these mistakes is yet to be seen, but Desimone remains optimistic.

"These guys know what it is to shoot low, and they have success, especially in final-round pressure," Desimone said. "I think we will play consistently better golf than we did a year ago and justify our ranking."

Contact Will Leivenberg at [email protected]

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