Bears Swing Short of Glory

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Sigmund Freud never studied golfers, but the effects that the game can have on a player's mind would likely have given the good doctor another meaning for the term, "performance anxiety."

The Cal men's golf team was in second place after the third round of the Pac-10 Championships Tuesday, which meant that the team would be playing with tournament host and eventual winner Arizona State in the final round yesterday.

Meanwhile, the women's squad had shot itself out of Pac-10 contention with a 311 in the second round, and would be playing for respect and a spot in the regional tournament in their final round.

With the pressure of playing with the runaway champion Sun Devils, the men wilted in the Tempe, Ariz., heat, shooting their worst round of the tournament, a 4-over par 364 to finish in third place at 12-under 1,428. By contrast, the women's squad shot its best round in school history, posting a 294 en route to fourth-place finish at their Pac-10 Championships.

But the question wasn't whether the men would challenge the Devils for the title - going into the final round, ASU was up by 36 shots on its home course - but rather, whether the Bears could hold their four-shot lead over Oregon State while playing with one of the elite teams in the country.

The answer was no.

"When you play in the final pair of the Pac-10 Championship, it's a little different than the Santa Barbara Open or some other tournament," Desimone said.

Adding to that pressure was the fact that the tournament was held at the ASU Karsten Golf Course - in front of a sizable hometown gallery.

The pressure couldn't be better illustrated than it was by the performance turned in by J.R. Ruda. The Bears freshman was tied for eighth after a third-round 67, but faltered on the putting greens yesterday to shoot an 81 on the way to a 3-over 291, good for a 30th-place tie. Desimone attributed the 15-shot swing to the nervousness that young but talented players experience when they are thrown into a pressure-packed situation - Ruda was paired with tourney champ Paul Casey.

"I wouldn't attribute it to anything other than the inexperience of being in that situation," Desimone said. "J.R. may have been a little intimidated by Paul Casey. It's a tough situation for a young guy to be in. In some respects, it may be the best thing for him, because he'll be in this situation down the road and he'll be better prepared for it."

Desimone was not altogether disappointed with his team's performance. Cal has progressed steadily since the fall season and all but guaranteed itself a spot in the NCAA Western Regional Tournament in Fresno, Calif., May 18-20.

"We're always disappointed when we don't win, but I've got to give our guys credit," Desimone said. "We started off slow and we battled back on the back nine. I'm comfortable with where we are in the district. The good teams keep building as toward the end of the season and that is what we are doing. "

The Devils won the conference title for the sixth year in a row with a Pac-10 record 56-under. ASU showed its dominance by starting with an opening round 21-under par 339, meaning the Devils could have shot even par in the final three rounds and still won by two shots over second-place Oregon State.

ASU was led by Casey, who scorched the Karsten course with a record performance of his own. The junior earned medalist honors at Pac-10s for the second year in a row and broke Tiger Woods' conference record on a par-72 course with a 23-under 265 (66-65-67-67).

As he has for much of the season, Han Lee posted the lowest score for Cal (5-under 283) and finished in a tie for 12th place. Lee got to 5-under when he shot 67 in the opening round, but couldn't keep the momentum going after a second-round 74 and 71 in the final two rounds.

Lee was followed by James Hahn, who tied for 17th at 2-under 286, and fellow senior Robert Hamilton, who posted a 2-over 290. Hamilton, who will retain his amateur status for a year after he graduates, welcomed the challenged of playing with the Devils in the final round.

"For myself, it was nice to be in the final wave with ASU and watching how they worked their way around the golf course," Hamilton said. "I played with Jeff Quinney, who didn't play all that well, but he played smart. (ASU) knew they won the tournament, but they were still giving everything they had."

Meanwhile, the women's team wasn't watching anyone in its final round at the par-72 Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Ore. The Bears' record final round spurred them to their highest finish in school history at the Pac-10 Championships. Cal shot a 40-over 904 to place in fourth, 21 shots behind first-place Arizona.

"Everything we've been working toward finally came together today," Bears coach Nancy McDaniel said of her team's final round record. "The team knew that a 311 wasn't acceptable yesterday. They performed well with their backs against the wall. Today's performances should solidify our chance at qualifying for (NCAA) Western Regionals."


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