Bears Emerge for Spring at Arizona Invitational
Jan. 30, 2009
BEARS HOPE TO TEAR THROUGH TUCSON TO OPEN SPRING: The Golden Bears start their spring 2009 campaign at the Arizona National Golf Club Feb. 2-3 at the Arizona Invitational, hosted by the University of Arizona in Tucson. The first collegiate golf event of the spring, it was formerly known as the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate.
THE EVENT: The 2009 Arizona Invitational is a 54-hole event with a par-71, 6,900-yard layout. Thirty-six holes will be played on Monday, Feb. 2, with continuous play scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. MST. The final 18 holes will start at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 3. Tennessee won the team title at the 2008 event with an 832 (-20) and UCLA's Kevin Chappell took home the individual title with his 198 (-15). Cal shot a 286 (+2) for the final round, its top round of the tournament, to end the event with a seventh-place finish. Current senior George Gandranata had the best Cal finish at this event last year (T16) and leads the lineup after a competitive week of qualifying, followed by Eric Mina, Kent Yamane, John Murphy and Stephen Hale. Live tournament scoring will be available at www.Golfstat.com.
DES SAYS: Head coach Steve Desimone is eager to see how his team fares against a top-notch field playing on a desert course that can be very difficult depending on the weather. The forecast for early next week in Tucson calls for mild temperatures and sunny skies. 'Wind is always the X factor in the game, the most difficult of the variables to contend with, especially on a course like Arizona National. That desert is looming there on virtually every shot, accuracy is so critical. If the wind stays down, I think we'll all be thankful. But with tight fairways for the most part, we have to hit it straight, then after that we'll see what happens. If we keep the ball on the short stuff, I like our chances coming down the stretch Tuesday afternoon.'
CAL AIMS FOR GOOD START IN FIRST ROUND: Says Desimone, 'You can't win it in the first round, but you certainly can put yourself in a bad position, maybe even lose it. Over the first three events of the fall we had good, solid opening rounds and went on to have a win and couple of other good finishes, whereas at The Prestige, we had trouble over the first nine holes and were fighting upstream the rest of the way.'
BEAR LINEUP: Cal's lineup (in order, with 2008-09 statistics)
Player YR RDS STROKES AVG LOW TOP FINISHGeorge Gandranata Sr. 9 664 73.8 70 T7Eric Mina So. 12 867 72.3 68 T3Kent Yamane Sr. 3 222 74.0 72 T16John Murphy Jr. 12 869 72.7 68 2Stephen Hale So. 12 890 74.2 68 T16
LINEUP LOOK: George Gandranta leads the lineup after an intense week of qualifying that included five rounds. He, Eric Mina and Stephen Hale played this event last year, while Kent Yamane took a redshirt year in 2007-08 and John Murphy was just beginning his sophomore season Old Dominion before transferring to Cal last summer.
LACK OF RAIN BEARS' GAIN? 'The state needs rain, but for us, in terms of being prepared, I'm confident we are ready for our first spring event,' Desimone says. 'I can't recall having better conditions than these. I think that's one of the reasons we saw the competitive scores that we did in qualifying. Our ball striking has been good, and if we drop a few putts, we'll be in contention to win Tuesday afternoon.'
A LOOK AT THE FIELD: Two of the squads in the 16-team field finished the fall season ranked in the (Nov. 28) Golf World/Nike Top-25 Coaches Poll: Tennessee (16) and UNLV (20).The rest of field consists of California, UC Irvine, Coastal Carolina, East Tennessee State, Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee State, Nevada, New Mexico, Pepperdine, Rice, San Diego State, Tulsa and host Arizona, which is fielding two different lineups.
LAST YEAR: With four golfers finishing in the top 35, the California men's golf team earned a solid seventh-place finish at the season-opening competition, then called the Arizona-PING Intercollegiate Men's Golf Tournament. George Gandranata was red-hot at seven-under par through the first two rounds but cooled off for the final round to finish at a one-under 212 to tie for 16th in the event, pacing the Golden Bears. Tennessee captured the tournament championship with an 832 (-20), followed by UNLV (835, -17) and UCLA (847, -5). Host Arizona (848, -4) and East Tennessee State (855, +3) rounded out the top five. Cal tallied an 864 (+12), eight shots behind San Diego State, which finished in sixth place in the 16-team field. Cal shot 286 (+2) for the final round, its top round of the tournament. In final-round action, sophomore Andrey Mindirgasov and freshman Stephen Hale both had minus-one rounds of 70 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 73s to finish at 219 (+6), tied for 31st place. Mina had 10 birdies over his three rounds, matching Gandranata for the team-best total. Senior Brandon Beck closed the tourney with his best round, a sold plus-two 73, tallying 15 pars in the round.
STRONG SUMMER PAVED WAY FOR FALL SUCCESS: The coaching staff challenged the team to continue to improve between spring 2008 and the past fall season, and Cal did just that. This past summer, four of the Bears' returning players, George Gandranata, Stephen Hale, Andrey Mindirgasov and Eric Mina, competed in the 2008 U.S. Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C. It was the greatest number of participants Cal has ever had qualify for this prestigious event. Along the way the Bears gained a significant addition with the arrival of junior John Murphy, a transfer from Old Dominion, where he was selected Most Outstanding Performer in the Colonial Athletic Association Conference his freshman year.
FALL RECAP: After ending the spring of 2008 ranked No. 46 in the nation by Golfweek Magazine, the Bears charged through the fall of 2008 with a first at the San Francisco (USF) Invitational at the Olympic Club, a second at the Husky (Washington) Invitational and a third at the Wolverine (Michigan) Invitational, then responded to adversity by bouncing back from a tough opening round with a strong seventh at The Prestige (Stanford/UC Davis) to end the calendar year ranked No. 28 by Golfstat and No. 29 by Golfweek.