Talented Veterans and Newcomers Aim to Lift California Golf Back Into the NCAAs
Jan. 25, 2007
BERKELEY - California head men's golf coach Steve Desimone has always been a positive thinker, using his optimistic attitude to direct the Golden Bears to many successes, including the 2004 National Championship. However, for the 2007 golf campaign, the 28-year veteran mentor qualifies his optimism with a key distinction:
'Every indication is that we should be positive about this year. We have an excellent mix of veterans and youth and young players have a tendency to make quantum leaps in a positive way. There's a scenario here where we could be very good, and quickly.'
The leader of the team is senior Michael Wilson, the only remaining player from Cal's 2004 NCAA title squad. Wilson's performance at the top of the lineup will be key to the team's success in 2007. The veteran, who won his first collegiate tournament, has added victories in each of the last two years to match the school record for individual tournament wins set by Ben Furth from 1987-91. Known for his outstanding short game and for being arguably the best putter in the history of Cal Golf, Wilson averaged a 74.3 in 2005 and improved to 73.0 in the fall, when he punched a team-best 65 en route to winning the Alister Mackenzie Invitational.
Sophomore George Gandranata joins Wilson at the top of the Bear rotation. The product of Indonesia has been the team's most consistent performer over the last year and a half. He posted a stroke-average of 73.6 in 2005 and this fall, he tallied an impressive 71.7. In less than two years, he has six rounds below 70, including a pair of 67's at the Alister MacKenzie this fall.
Michael Jensen is the third key veteran for the Bears. The junior, who was Honorable Mention All Pac-10 as a freshman, has established himself in his first two seasons as one of the top players in the West Coast, with his strong all-around game and his distance off the tee. He will be looked to as a leader for the Bears this spring. Jensen has a top collegiate round of 66 and led Cal with a three-round 212 at the Miranda Falcon Invitational in the fall campaign.
'We have an interesting mix of experience and youth,' Desimone said. 'We need to have a very steady Michael Wilson at the top of the lineup, George needs to continue to play with heart and smarts and Michael Jensen needs to provide leadership and solid play. The younger guys will round out the top five. They have all played well at times and have all proven to be capable of lifting this program to the level we expect it to be.'
Freshman Andrey Mindirgasov stepped right onto the course in the fall and made an immediate impact. The Pacific Grove, Calif., product averaged 73.1 over 15 rounds in the fall, including a 67 at the MacKenzie. The other impressive newcomers are freshman Chris Jensen, the younger brother of Michael Jensen, and junior college transfer Kent Yamane. The younger Jensen played 12 rounds at a 73.6 clip, while Yamane was at 73.2 over nine rounds this fall.
Juniors Brandon Beck and Freddy Wolfe bring valuable experience to the lineup. Beck, a two year letterman and who redshirted last year, was a 2005 Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 selection after finishing tied for fifth at the Pac-10 Championship with a two-under 282. Wolfe, whose father attended Cal and played basketball and golf, came to the Bears in 2005 from junior college. He played in a number of events in spring 2006 and finished second for the Bears in the Pac-10 Championships. Sophomore Erick Thorson and freshmen Evan Derian and John Yeun also add quality depth to the program.
Desimone's usual optimism is backed by his potent mix of experience and talent - Wilson, and his NCAA Championship ring, has established himself at the top of the lineup, while Gandranata has jumped into the rotation as a top player on the national level. The elder Jensen will be joined by his younger brother and the rest of one of the top recruiting classes in program history to give the Golden Bears the ingredients needed to make another NCAA Tournament run.
'Our goals are the same as they are every year - NCAA competition and a shot at winning an NCAA Championship,' Desimone said. 'We've had two tough years, where we just missed the NCAA Regionals. We started this year with a solid fall and good play early. If the selection were made now for the NCAA Regionals, we would be in and we'd be in comfortably, but we're capable of playing much better. This program has had a history of playing well as seasons have progressed; we'd like to build on that tradition again this spring.'