No. 30 California Tees Off Sunday at National Invitational Tournament
March 20, 2009
TUCSON, Ariz. - GOLDEN BEARS FIRED UP TO BOUNCE BACK IN DESERT: With a quick turnaround after its first-ever trip to the Southern Highlands in Las Vegas and an eight-spot drop in latest Golfweek rankings, No. 30 California takes another maiden voyage this weekend to the National Invitational Tournament to play 54 holes Sunday and Tuesday at the Omni Tucson National Golf Club, where the Bears last played at the 1994 Pac-10 Championship.
THE EVENT: Hosted by the University of Arizona, the 2009 National Invitational Tournament is a 15-team event, with the Wildcats playing two squads. It takes place at Tucson National, a par 72, 7,094-yard layout. Following a Friday practice round, three rounds start with 36 holes played on Sunday, March 22, with continuous play following a shotgun start at 8 a.m. PT. The final 18 holes will start at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 23. In 2008, Texas Christian University finished first with a 275-290-289 - 854 (-10). Tulsa's was the top individual at 69-68-71 - 208 (-8). Live tournament scoring will also be available at www.Golfstat.com .
DES SAYS: 'They're are really wounded after what had been a really great six events of the year, top 25, and then running into a steamroller all of a sudden, not really being able to get the job done,' says Head Coach Steve Desimone of the tenor of the team following its 15th-place finish last week at the Southern Highlands Collegiate. 'Usually one of two things happen in a situation like this: either you gear it up and make a great comeback or that confidence factor stays missing and you struggle again. I tend to think the way these guys have performed all year, we're much more likely to get back after it and see some success.'
STAY-ALIVE PAR FIVES: 'It's a fair golf course, pretty generous off the tee,' says Coach Desimone of Tucson National and its resort-style layout. The courses five par-5 holes would normally appeal to the Bears' chances, but Cal finished last in the field in that category last time out at the Southern Highlands. 'I've got to think we'll play the par-fives a whole lot better than that the next three days,' says Desimone. 'It's very difficult to know how these guys are going to react. Confidence is a big deal and I don't have an answer for that. But they're wounded and want a chance at redemption, and usually that's a good thing.
WINDS IN THE WORKS FOR SUNDAY? A wildcard to open play in Tucson might be strong winds on Sunday. 'If that's the case, then anything's possible,' Desimone says. 'Wind has a tendency to take its toll, so I hope the forecast is wrong, because it's such a fair golf course that you'd really hate to see conditions like that degrade the quality of play. Good players are going to score well here, and the wind can definitely have a negative effect.'
BEAR LINEUP: Cal's lineup (in order, with 2008-09 statistics)
Player YR RDS STROKES AVG LOW TOP FINISHMichael Jensen Sr. 18 1315 73.0 69 T1Stephen Hale So. 21 1551 73.8 68 T15George Gandranata Sr. 18 1330 73.8 69 T7Eric Mina So. 21 1548 73.7 68 T3John Murphy Jr. 18 1321 73.3 68 2
LINEUP LOOK: Following Desimone's normal policy coming off a short week before a competition, Cal goes with the same lineup that competed last week at the Southern Highlands, with no intrasquad qualifying rounds. They were able to get a little bit of practice in between makeup midterms, but it was a short week without significant qualifying. Following their finish in Las Vegas, senior co-captain Michael Jensen will lead the charge, followed by sophomore Stephen Hale, senior George Grandranata, sophomore Eric Mina and junior John Murphy. 'These have been the five guys who over the season have played the best, so I'm comfortable with bringing them hear,' says Desimone. 'I would have liked to have qualifying to give Kent Yamane, Jeff Hamm and the other guys a chance, but we just weren't able to do it. They'll get a chance to work over spring break and then we'll see what happens when we head to Pasatiempo a week later.'
A LOOK AT THE FIELD: The 15-team field consists of Baylor, California, Colorado State (22), Houston, Kent State, New Mexico, SMU, TCU (18), Texas (15), Texas-El Paso, Tulsa, UNLV, Wyoming and host Arizona (two squads). Although only three of the teams in the field - No. 15 Longhorns, No. 18 Horned Frogs and No. 22 Rams -- are ranked in the current (March 11) Golf World/Nike Golf Division I Coaches Poll, the field is strong from end again once again this week. UNLV, for example, was one of only two teams to finish below par last week at its event, the Southern Highlands, but the Runnin' Rebels are not ranked in that poll. 'There's such great parity in college golf,' Desimone says. 'The top 10, those guys have moved away from the rest a little bit, although not that much, but when you get from 10, 11, 12 to the 60th-ranked team in the country, you can throw a blanket over most of them, and then it becomes who putts well that week. Many of these teams will advance to the NCAA Championship, so once again we need to have our A game here.'
LAST TIME OUT: California exited the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship in 15th place (298-305-310 - 913 +49), ending its first visit to the UNLV-hosted event as Michael Jensen delivered the Bears' best individual finish in a tie for 29th with his 76 (+4) on the final 18. The Runnin' Rebels shot the best round of the final day and won the event by on stroke over Oklahoma State at -9. 'It was a great field, very possibly the best regular-season field we've ever played in, and a very tough golf course,' Desimone said.
ONE GREAT COURSE AFTER THE OTHER: Says Desimone of the venues Cal has visited recently and will see soon: 'We're very busy over this period, but we're also playing three wonderful golf courses: Southern Highlands, a championship-caliber golf course; Tucson National has hosted over 30 PGA Tour events, and Pasatiempo [for the Western Intercollegiate] is one of the great courses in the United States, so in terms of quality of golf and quality of golf courses, I can't imagine it getting any better in college golf.'