Men's Golf Looks For High Finish at Fresno Lexus Classic

March 7, 2008

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA DREAMING: The Cal men's golf team is back in action on Monday and Tuesday, competing at the Fresno Lexus Classic. Cal has been very impressive this spring, improving each week with finishes of seventh, sixth and fifth - and the fifth-place effort came at last week's USC Collegiate Invitational, the most challenging field of the year thus far for the Golden Bears. Following the Fresno event, the Bears will be off until March 26 when they play the Western Intercollegiate in Santa Cruz.

THE EVENT: The 44th annual Fresno Lexus Classic will be played at Fort Washington Country Club in Fresno, Calif. Teams will play 36 holes on Monday with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. The final 18 holes begin Tuesday at 8 a.m. Live scoring will be available at www.GolfStat.com. It is a five-man format with the best four scores coutning each round.

DEZ SAYS: The Golden Bears have improved their finish in each of the last four tournaments giving head coach Steve Desimone reason for optimism as Cal heads to Fresno for its fourth spring tournament of the year. 'The record speaks for itself [that we are improving every time out]. Most importantly, the kids know they are improving and playing good golf. That's contagious. You don't want to peak in October or November, you want to peak in March, April, May; and we seem to be moving in the right direcxtion. Having Brandon back and healthy has definitely made a difference. Eight of his nine rounds have counted for us. All five guys are contributing; you can look at stroke average or you can look through that and see why all five guys are in rounds - we're hitting a lot of fairways, we're hitting greens, our short game's solid, and our putting is improving also, which is one of the most important components. We're improving in all phases of the game right now. We talked on Tuesday night; there are four or five very good teams at the Fresno Tournament, but our expectation is to play for the championship on Tuesday. That is a mindset that I like from the kids. They saw us racing up the scoreboard on Tuesday and they want more of that.'

BEAR LINE-UP: Cal's lineup (in order, with 2007-08 statistics) for the Fresno Lexus Classic is listed below.Player YR RDS STROKES AVG LOW TOP FINISHBrandon Beck Sr. 9 667 74.1 71 T14Stephen Hale Fr. 20 1440 72.0 67 1Evan Derian So. 14 1022 73.0 67 T8Eric Mina Fr. 17 1252 73.6 69 T24George Gandranata Jr. 18 1301 72.3 66 T8

LINEUP LOOK: The Golden Bears go into the Fresno Lexus Classic with the same five competitors as the last two tournaments - a strong combination which has produced a pair of top six finishes. Senior Brandon Beck was the Bears' top qualifier - he has played nine rounds since returning to the rotation after battling mono in the fall. Eight of those rounds have counted and in each of his three tournaments, his scores have improved each day - Beck is averaging a 72.3 in the final rounds of tournaments this spring. Standout freshman Stephen Hale, who was a finalist for Pac-10 Golfer of the Month honors, will play at No. 2. Another pair of youngsters, sophomore Evan Derian and freshman Eric Mina, will play at No. 3 and No. 4. Junior George Gandranata rounds out the rotation, looking to get back on track after posting his highest score of the year in the swirling winds at the USC Collegiate.

A LOOK AT THE FIELD: The Fresno Lexus Classic features a 19-team field. Scheduled to compete with Cal are Bakersfield, Boise State, California, Fresno State, Idaho, Kansas State, Long Beach State, Loyola Marymount, Nevada, Northridge, Oregon, Pacific, Portland State, Sacramento State, San Diego State, Santa Clara, Texas, TCU and Wyoming.

RECORD-SETTER: Stephen Hale's performance in Hawaii in late February was one of the most impressive tourneys in Cal men's golf history. Playing in just his sixth career tournament, the freshman fired three straight 67's to finish at 201, the top score in the history of the Cal program. His victory was Cal's first individual title since Michael Wilson won the 2006 Alister MacKenzie Invitational; and Cal's first title away from one of its home courses since Wilson won the 2005 CordeValle Classic. In the last five years, Cal has had two performances that nearly matched Hale's score - in the fall of 2003, Jeff Hood fired a 202 (64-67-71) to win the Mid-Pines Intercollegiate while in the spring of 2004, Peter Tomasulo shot a 202 (65-68-69) at the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate. Tomasulo's 202 was part of a stretch of nine straight rounds below 70.

LAST TIME OUT - USC COLLEGIATE RECAP: Senior Brandon Beck tallied a 14th place finish to pace four Cal men's golfers in the top-25 as the Golden Bears earned fifth place in the USC Collegiate Invitational. The Bears shot a final round 292, the third-best round of the day, to climb three spots for their third top-five effort of the year. Beck improved in each round of the tournament for the third straight time this year, shooting an opening round 77 in extremely windy conditions, followed by a 74 and then a 73, to tie for 14th overall at 224 (+11). Freshman Stephen Hale was just behind Beck, closing the event with a pair of 72's to finish at 225 (+12), tied for 18th place. Sophomore Evan Derian tied for 20th place overall at 226 (+13), while freshman Eric Mina had another solid performance, shooting a three-round 227 (+14) to tie for 25th place. Host USC won the event with a three-round total of 885 (+33), followed closely by Tennessee (889, +37). Cal finished ahead of Pac-10 rivals Washington, Oregon State and Oregon. The Bears' score over the final two-round score of 589 was tied with Pepperdine for the third-best in the tournament.

JOHN BURNS RECAP: Two very impressive scores of 67 in a row were not enough for California's Stephen Hale as the freshman fired a third five-under round to win the individual championship at the 2008 John Burns Intercollegiate. Hale's performance helped the Golden Bears earn a sixth-place finish in the competitive 21-team field. Hale tore through the par-72, 6,916-yard course on all three days, connecting on seven birdies in each of his three rounds. After entering Friday's final round tied for the lead, he opened action with a birdie and relentlessly pulled away from the field to win by two strokes. Hale was not the only strong performer for the Golden Bears. Junior George Gandranata tallied a second-straight 70 to finish at 212 (-4), tied for 34th place. Senior Brandon Beck had his best round since returning from mono by shooting a 71, finishing at 218 (+2), tied for 65th place. Freshman Eric Mina matched Beck with a 218 as well. All three of Cal's rounds (284-278-281) were better than any other rounds this year away from home - the Bears tallied a 274 and a 277 in the first two rounds of its own MacKenzie Invitational at the par-71 Meadow Club. Auburn won the team title at the event, firing a blistering 820 (44 below par) over the three rounds.

ARIZONA-PING RECAP: With four golfers finishing in the top 35, the California men's golf team earned a solid seventh-place finish at its season-opening tournament, the Arizona-PING Intercollegiate. George Gandranata, who was red-hot, playing minus-seven golf through the first two rounds, cooled off for the final round to finish at a minus-one 212 to tie for 16th in the event, pacing the Golden Bears. Cal shot a 286 (+2) for the final round, its top round of the tournament. It is just the second time in their last 12 events that the Bears closed with their best round of the tournament. Sophomore Andrey Mindirgasov and freshman Stephen Hale both had minus-one rounds of 70 in the final round to pace the Golden Bears. The pair finished tied for 35th overall at 220 (+7). Freshman Eric Mina was the most consistent Bear in the event, firing three straight 73's to finish at 219 (+6), tied for 31st place. Senior Brandon Beck closed the tourney with his best round, a sold plus-two 73, tallying 15 pars in the round. Tennessee captured the tournament championship with an 832 (-20). Cal tallied an 864 (+12).

FALL RECAP: Cal played in four fall events with fifth-place finishes in both the Falcon Invitational (Air Force) and the Husky Invitational (Washington). George Gandaranata was the top fall golfer for the Golden Bears with a 71.7 over nine rounds. Sophomore Evan Derian tallied an even 72.0 in the fall, including a pair of 67's at Cal's own MacKenzie Invitational. Freshman Stephen Hale had an excellent debut, shooting 72.2 over 11 rounds. Sophomore Andrey Mindirgasov (74.1) and freshman Eric Mina (73.5) were the other top contributors during the fall. The Bears' played without Brandon Beck, who missed the four events due to a bout with mononucleosis.

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