Strong Field Awaits No. 22 Bears at Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship
March 11, 2009
LAS VEGAS - CAL SEEKS TO CONTINUE CLIMB AGAINST TOP-DRAWER FIELD: The No. 22 Golden Bears face perhaps the strongest field in the 2009 regular season of college golf when they tee off Friday for the first time ever at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship, recommencing team play after their third-place finish at the USC Collegiate Invitational on Feb. 24.
THE EVENT: This is California's first-ever trip to the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship, hosted by UNLV. It features a 54-hole, stroke-play format, with 18 holes played each day over three days at the Southern Highlands Golf Club, a par-72, 7,510-yard course in Las Vegas, Nev. The lowest four scores are counted in each round for the team total. This year's 15-team field includes Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, California, Charlotte, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, UCLA, UNLV and USC. At the 2008 event, the Runnin' Rebels won the team title with a 288-288-293 -- 869 (+5). USC's Rory Hie won the individual title with in a three-way playoff, sinking a birdie on the 18th hole. Hie ended his three rounds tied at -3 with Hudson Swafford of Georgia and Jonas Enander Hedin of Charlotte. Once again this year, team and individual ties will be broken by sudden death playoff. Play will begin at 8 a.m. PST each day with tee times off No. 1 and No. 10 holes. Live scoring will be available at Golfstat.com
DES SAYS: 'We've been looking forward to this event all year,' says Head Coach Steve Desimone. 'We've been in a pretty good rhythm practicing and had a chance to get a lot of things done.' About the course, Desimone admits, 'We don't know much about it - never been here, haven't played it before, but we've done a little homework on it. It plays to 7500 yards, so clearly, you've got to hit the ball here. There's a lot of water, a lot of bunkers. Most of the teams that are competing have played here in the past, so we'll really have to be on our toes to be prepared for this tournament.'
BEAR LINEUP: Cal's lineup (in order, with 2008-09 statistics)
Player YR RDS STROKES AVG LOW TOP FINISHStephen Hale So. 18 1332 73.5 68 T15George Gandranata Sr. 15 1098 73.2 70 T7Michael Jensen Sr. 15 1091 72.7 69 T1Eric Mina So. 18 1315 73.0 68 T3John Murphy Jr. 15 1085 72.3 68 2
LINEUP LOOK: Sophomore Stephen Hale headlines this weekend's lineup for the Bears two weeks after putting together his best finish so far in 2008-09 with a tie for 15th (+2) at the USC Collegiate. Hot on Hale's heels after Monday's and Tuesday's qualifying rounds are George Gandranata in the second slot followed by Michael Jensen, currently ranked the No. 130 individual golfer in the nation by Golfweek; Eric Mina and John Murphy, whom Golfweek ranks No. 73. The foursome's qualifying edged senior co-captain Kent Yamane, Cal's best golfer last time out at the USC Collegiate (T8), out of this weekend's lineup. Says coach Desimone: 'We've got a bunch of good players, so somebody's going to have to sit out. But I'm very comfortable with the group that's here.'
A LOOK AT THE FIELD: Based on Golfweek's March 8 rankings, the field for the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship includes four of the top-5 teams in the nation: No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 USC, No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Clemson. The impressive group continues with No. 6 Florida and No. 10 Georgia Tech followed by four more squads in the top-25, including Cal at No. 22. Host UNLV is currently No. 31 and Arizona rounds out the list of schools in the top 50. 'This might be the strongest field in the regular season of college golf all year,' says Desimone. 'You'd better bring you're A game here or you're going to be in the rear very quickly. Very possibly the best regular-season field we've ever competed in, it's a real opportunity and a great challenge. With two months before we get to NCAA competition, it'll be a measuring stick for how things are progressing.'
CORÉ ADVANCES TO S.F. CITY CHAMPIONSHIP: Freshman James Coré played his way all the way to the championship final round of the San Francisco City Championship on March 8, taking on Carlos Briones in a 36-hole match-play format and falling short to the freshman from Moreau Catholic High freshman, 3 & 2. For Coré, the strong finish was bittersweet, as the Canadian capitalized on the chance to improve in the Bay Area's year-round golf environment, but battled through back problems that may keep him sidelined for the rest of spring and force him to take a redshirt year. Desimone says that Coré showed signs coming into the program that he could achieve at such a level: 'We were impressed early on that James had soft hands and could chip and putt, and a good short game. I've got to give him credit for hanging in as long as he did, because that [back problem] definitely had an impact the last couple of days, and I know that last 36-hole final was difficult for him. It's a real tribute to him digging in and trying to play. Really, it was a heroic effort on his part to play as well as he did, because he's going to be out three or four weeks, maybe even the rest of the spring.'
THREE COMPETE AT BAY AREA INTERCOLLEGIATE SHOOTOUT: Assistant coach Walter Chun accompanied freshmen Ian Dahl and Jeff Hamm, and senior Erick Thorson to Hiddenbrooke Golf Club in Vallejo, Calif., on Feb. 28 for the Bay Area Intercollegiate Shootout, hosted by Saint Mary's College. The shootout was a one-day, 36-hole individual tournament played at the par-72, 6,782-yard course, which has a rating of 73.8 and a slope of 142. The tournament included 42 players from six schools: Saint Mary's (9), Santa Clara (4), San Francisco (12), Gonzaga (8), San Diego (6), and California (3). Dahl finished in a tie for 11th (79-73 - 152, +8), followed by Thorson (80-73 - 153, +9) and Hamm (73-80 - 153, +9) in a tie for 14th. San Diego's Alex Ching won the event with an even-par 72-72 - 144. 'The course played very difficult and I know there were some jitters early on for all three of the players, but they hung tough,' says Coach Chun. 'They were getting calls and texts throughout the time we were there from their teammates, which was a very good touch on the part of the upperclassmen. It was good preparation for Ian, Erick and Jeff for when they eventually tee it up in the lineup.'