Cal Aims for Top-5 Finish at Texas Site for NCAA Regionals
May 7, 2009
BERKELEY - GOLDEN BEARS HOPE FIRST VISIT TO AUSTIN IS A CHARM: No. 32 California will play its 14th NCAA Regional in program history when the Golden Bears tee off at The University of Texas Golf Club as the 6th seed in the NCAA Regionals, where it will compete May 14-16 on a course it has never before played. Cal is paired with the host Longhorns and UNLV for round one. A top-5 finish after three rounds would qualify the Bears for the NCAA Championships the final weekend of May at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
THE EVENT: The regional format spans 54 holes of competition over three days, with one round per day. Teams get one practice round on Wed., May 13, before the tournament starts the next morning with free admission for spectators. The University of Texas Golf Club, located at Steiner Ranch in the Hill Country of northwest Austin, is the home of the Longhorns' men's and women's golf teams. Opened in November 2003, the 7,412-yard, par-71 course with a course rating of 76.7 and slope of 144 was created by Bechtol Russell Golf Design. It overlooks Lake Austin and borders the Balcones Natural Wildlife Preserve. Live tournament scoring will be available at NCAA.com and GolfStat.com. Recaps will posted following each round at CalBears.com.
DES SAYS: The course is unknown to the Bears, but Cal Head Coach Steve Desimone said its dimensions indicate 'it'll be a very stern test. It's disappointing that we're not going to play close to home but we're excited to be in the field. We're the 6th seed. Five teams will emerge [from Texas] to head to the NCAA Championship. We have one shot, so let's go play and see if we can push it over top. We've had a good year and oftentimes what makes the difference between a good year and a great year is making it out of a regional to the NCAA Championship. This is what we've pointed toward all season, we're here and we're ready. Inverness has been the goal since August - we're one tournament away and that is still the goal.'
BEAR LINEUP: Cal's lineup (in order, with 2008-09 statistics)
Player YR RDS STROKES AVG LOW TOP FINISHJohn Murphy Jr. 34 2472 72.7 68 2Eric Mina So. 37 2708 73.1 67 T3Michael Jensen Sr. 34 2489 73.2 67 T1Stephen Hale So. 37 2721 73.5 68 T15George Gandranata Sr. 31 2291 73.9 69 T7
LINEUP LOOK: John Murphy, Michael Jensen and George Gandranata received All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention accolades on May 1. The 2009 award is the second such recognition for Gandranata, following last year's distinction, and the third honorable mention for Jensen, with prior recognition in 2004-05 and `06-07. Murphy was previously an all-conference player at Old Dominion, where he was named 2007 Colonial Athletic Association Most Outstanding Performer and selected to the CAA All-Conference Team after he won the CAA Conference Championship (69-69-72 - 210). The junior first-year transfer finished 5th at his first Pac-10 Championship to culminate a year with a 72.7 average and four more top-10 finishes. Senior co-captain Jensen won the San Francisco Intercollegiate to start the year and finished 7th at the Husky Invitational en route to his 73.3 average. Gandranata, also a senior, started the year with a 7th at the San Francisco Intercollegiate and goes into the NCAA Regionals with a 73.9 stroke average. Sophomore Eric Mina delivered the second-best stroke average in 2008-09 for the Bears, at 73.1, while he and fellow second-year player Stephen Hale tied for the most rounds this year (37).
A LOOK AT THE FIELD: Cal will be competing against a mixture of traditional rivals like Stanford, previously faced competition such as UNLV, and a few teams it has not faced recently, including Florida, host Texas and Texas Tech. The complete field includes, in order of seeding: 1. Stanford; 2. Florida; 3. Texas Tech; 4. Texas; 5. UNLV; 6. California; 7. Lamar (Southland Conference qualifier); 8. Michigan; 9. Texas-Arlington; 10. Virginia Tech; 11. Mississippi State; 12. New Mexico State (Western Athletic Conference qualifier); and 13. Jackson State (Southwestern Athletic Conference qualifier). Individuals include: 1. Glenn Northcutt, Auburn; 2. Ken Looper, New Orleans; 3. Cole Moreland, Auburn; 4. Adam Cornelson, New Orleans; 5. Cedric Scotto, Southeastern Louisiana; 6. Jeff Gerlich, Texas State; 7. Matthew Carvell, Southeastern Louisiana; 8. Corey Roberson, Texas State; 9. Fergal Rafferty, Sam Houston; and 10. Gonzalo Berlin, Jacksonville State.
RANKINGS AT THE REGIONAL: The nine teams from the Austin region currently ranked in the nation's top 50 by Golfstat.com include top-seeded Stanford at No. 5 followed by No. 8 Florida, No. 17 Texas Tech, No. 24 Texas, No. 30 UNLV, No. 32 California, No. 41 Lamar, No. 45 Michigan and No. 49 UT Arlington.
PAIRINGS AND TEE TIMES: The Bears are paired with host Texas and the Runnin' Rebels for Thursday's first-round action, with players in the tee box at the 10th hole between 8:50 and 9:30 a.m. Subsequent pairings and tee times are determined by each day's finish.
NEW REGIONAL FORMAT'S SIX SITES: In a new format that evolves the previous structure of three sites (West, Central and East), this year's NCAA Regional competition takes place at six sites to determine the 30 qualifying teams and six individuals not on those qualifying teams who will advance to the finals. Thirteen teams and 10 individuals not on those teams also compete at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif.; and Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.; while 14 teams and five individuals not on those teams battle it out at Galloway National Golf Club in Galloway, N.J.; RedTail Golf Club in Sorrento, Fla.; and The Club at Olde Stone in Bowling Green, Ken. The top-5 teams and best individual from each region earn berths at the NCAA Championships.
LAST YEAR: Cal wrapped up its 2007-08 campaign with a 20th place finish at the NCAA West Regional Championship at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash., hosted by the University of Washington. It was the Bears' 10th NCAA appearance in the previous 12 years as well and the 13th overall regional appearance for the Golden Bears. Outgoing senior Brandon Beck and then-junior George Gandranata paced the team in the overall standings, as both finished tied for 63rd place at 227 (+11). Then-freshman Stephen Hale had an impressive finish; after shooting an 82 in the first round, the rookie rebounded to shoot 73-74 in the final two rounds, finishing at 229 (+13), tied with then-sophomore Evan Derian. Another player ending his first season, Eric Mina, rounded out the scoring for the Golden Bears with a 230 (+14).
U.S. INTERCOLLEGIATE April 18-19: The Golden Bears hung tough and climbed one spot to finish 6th after the final round of the U.S. Intercollegiate at Stanford University Golf Course. Michael Jensen led California with his final score of 209 (-1, T21), but it was a team effort to stay in the hunt with no one golfer in the top 20. 'It was one of the strongest fields we played in all year,' said Desimone. 'Overall we played three good, solid rounds, and did a lot of good things. We also beat a number of excellent teams. It was almost stronger than a regional field, which tells you we have a legitimate shot of advancing beyond the regionals to the finals, and that's exciting.'
THUNDERBIRD INVITATIONAL April 10-11: Unable to sustain the momentum created by a scorching second round, the Golden Bears fell seven spots during the final round of the ASU Thunderbird Invitational and finished 13th at Karsten Golf Course. Junior John Murphy shot a 1-under final round to finish in an individual tie for 7th (-1). Murphy's final round included 5 birdies against 3 bogeys on a day when the rest of the lineup - except for Eric Mina, who equaled his second round +2 to finish tied for 68th (+8) - suffered their worst rounds of the 54-hole Thunderbird. Stephen Hale and George Gandranata ended tied for 53rd (+7). Hale's 10th-hole eagle could not erase the 6 bogeys and double bogey that contributed to his 76, while Gandranata was one shot better Saturday but also had 6 bogeys. Michael Jensen's triple bogey inflicted the most damage to his final-round 77 (+6) and he finished at +12 (T79
WESTERN INTERCOLLEGIATE March 29-31: Three Golden Bears ended their Western Intercollegiate tournaments in the top 20, led by Eric Mina's 67 (-3) on the final day to finish tied for 6th, as California climbed one spot into a 5th-place finish (+45) at Pasatiempo Golf Course. Mina kicked off his final round on hole 4 with a birdie and followed that two holes later with an eagle on the par 5, 555-yard 6th hole, putting down three more birdies to finish the event at 215 (+5). Michael Jensen also started with a birdie on hole 6 and was under par until a double bogey down the stretch put him +1 on the day and +11 overall (T13). John Murphy had to battle through a triple-bogey 12th hole to end his final round at 77 (+7) and finish tied for 36th (+17). Stephen Hale ended the event in a tie for 20th, bogeying his first hole but righting the ship enough to end Tuesday's round with a 73 (+3).
NATIONAL INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT March 22-23: California fought its way up to a fifth-place finish at the Omni Tucson National Golf Club as Eric Mina ended as the Bears' golfer in a tie for 5th overall (-3), sinking three birdies in a 1-under final round. 'The guys did a very good job; they were very competitive today. We went in and just played some solid golf all the way through. Anybody that shot par or better really had it going,' said Desimone. 'Overall we got the chance to get back after it and we played a strong final round. It's good to be back on track. But we're glad to give up Bermuda greens and get out of the desert.' John Murphy put down four birdies that were offset by two bogies and a double bogey on the fifth hole, finishing even on the day and in the tournament (T11). Stephen Hale fired an even-par 72 to end in a tie for 25th (+3). Michael Jensen shot a plus-5 final round to end in 43rd (+7) and George Gandranata finished Monday at plus-6 in a tie for 68th (+13).
SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS COLLEGIATE CHAMPIONSHIP March 13-15: California exited the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship in 15th place, 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. Cal's day-three scoring featured a team-best 74 (+2) by Eric Mina, but also included three plus-8 cards turned in by Stephen Hale, George Gandranata and John Murphy. 'We're very disappointed,' said Desimone. 'This trip was a great opportunity squandered. We played the par-fives very poorly. The good news is we get a chance to redeem ourselves in a week. It was a great field, very possibly the best regular-season field we've ever played in, and a very tough golf course. We're disappointed, yes, but in no way does it have any consequences for postseason competition. It does show how much more we have to do to get where we want to be.'
USC COLLEGIATE Feb. 22-23: No. 29 California looked to solidify its team play entering the second event of the spring and did just that, winding up the USC Collegiate Invitational with a third-place finish at +6, edging the host and No. 4 Trojans by one stroke and finishing ahead of conference foes then-No. 9 Washington, then-No. 19 UCLA, and Oregon State. Each of Cal's top-five golfers shot at or below par in at least one round, with senior Kent Yamane ending tied for 8th overall to lead the Bears.
ARIZONA INTERCOLLEGIATE Feb. 2-3: With three golfers finishing in the top 15, California ended its first competition of the spring with a seventh-place finish at the Arizona Intercollegiate. John Murphy shot the Golden Bears' best final found with an even-par 71 to end at +3, while George Gandranata's second-round 69 stood as Cal's best round of the event. Similar to how the Bears stumbled out of the gate at The Prestige to end the fall season, Cal was unable to make up ground after a difficult opening day. Cal ended its competition at the Arizona National Golf Club in seventh place for the second straight 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.