Hale, Bears Take MacKenzie Invite by Storm

Photo: <b>Stephen Hale</b>captured the individual title at the MacKenzie Invitational with scores of 68 and 64 in the first two rounds. The third round was canceled due to rain.
Victoria Chow/File
Stephen Halecaptured the individual title at the MacKenzie Invitational with scores of 68 and 64 in the first two rounds. The third round was canceled due to rain.

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The rain usually produces dread among students who are forced to endure roaring buckets of storm water.

For the Cal men's golf team, though, the rain happened to be a blessing in disguise.

The third and final round of the Alister MacKenzie Invitational at the Meadow Club in Fairfax, Calif., was canceled Tuesday due to extreme weather conditions -- namely, enormous amounts of rain -- effectively giving the Bears their second victory of the fall season.

"Of course it is great to win," said coach Steve Desimone, who was congratulated by multiple opposing coaches on the Bears' stellar play in second round. "And while we did play excellent, fun golf, I would have liked to have seen how we played under the pressure of being in the lead with teams chasing us."

Cal finished at 23-under, five strokes ahead of Oregon, which held a seven-stroke lead after the first 18 holes. Though the final round of the event was canceled, day one featured a great deal of suspenseful, compelling golf.

Junior Stephen Hale fired two remarkably low rounds of 68 and 64 to capture the lead at 10-under par, ultimately taking the individual title. Hale attributes his consistent, solid play to his evolution as a putter.

"Last year I was struggling with my putting, so I changed putters, got a couple lessons from my coach in Fresno, and we changed my thought process over the ball," he said. "Just like a long shot, I'm not thinking about making it, I'm just focusing on putting a solid strike on the ball. Luckily, a few putts went in Monday."

Freshman Michael Weaver cemented his place in the Cal lineup with rounds of 69 and 68 to finish at 5-under and tied for eighth place overall. Junior Eric Mina shot a 1-over first round but revived his score in round two with a 4-under 67, tying for 16th in the event. Chad Vivolo and James Core finished one stroke apart overall, Vivolo at 1-over and Core at 2-over.

There was a positive change in Cal's performance in round two. The Bears shot 11 strokes better from round one to round two, and the most visible change that impacted their winning play was their putting, as Hale and Weaver combined to make 22 birdies.

"I don't know if we could have played any better," Desimone said of the back nine of his team's round two, which featured a plethora of birdies from the Cal squad. "The wind was howling, the rain was on and off, but our guys kept up their intensity and produced fabulous golf shots."

Hale's personal victory marks the second time this season that a Bears golfer earned first place after Eric Mina was crowned champion at the Spartan Classic in Michigan on Sept. 20.

This is the first year that Cal has had two individual champions in a season, as well as one of the few occasions that the Bears won two tournaments in the fall -- perhaps a sign of things to come.


Contact Will Leivenberg at [email protected]

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