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Morikawa Takes His Place In Cal History

Aug 17, 2020
Collin Morikawa graduated from Cal just 15 months ago and now is a PGA champion.

As former Cal star Collin Morikawa was pulling away from a stacked field and putting the finishing touches on a PGA Championship victory last week, the Tweets from Golden Bear dignitaries came rolling in.

Jason Kidd, Ron Rivera, Jared Goff, Cameron Jordan and others chimed in to offer their congratulations. Morikawa's phone was overwhelmed with texts from other Cal peers such as Evan Weaver and Johnny Hooper.

Morikawa made history when he became just the fourth golfer ever to win the PGA Championship at the age of 23 – joining golf legends Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Rory McIlroy as the only players ever to pull it off.

In turn, he also made Cal history.

"I would say it's up there with winning a national championship," Cal men's golf coach Walter Chun said.

Other Cal alums have won PGA Tour events, but Morikawa became the first former Golden Bear to win a major championship. In the 15 months since he graduated from Cal, Morikawa has blitzed the pro tour by making the cut in each of his first 23 tournaments (the second-longest streak to begin a pro career in history) and recording three victories.

He's already ranked fifth in the Official World Golf Rankings.

"Someone asked me if I think I am in the same conversation as Aaron Rodgers or Marshawn Lynch or these other guys, and I said absolutely not," Morikawa said last week during a Zoom interview. "I am not there. I'm 23. These guys have already imprinted their legacy on Cal and their sports. I'm just getting started."

But Morikawa has already accomplished things that some golfers never do during an entire career. And while those close to him may not have predicted a major at the age of 23, none seem to be too surprised that Morikawa has already risen to the top of professional golf.

"We've had guys win seven tournaments in the past five years or so, which is awesome stuff. But winning a major championship is what golf is all about," said former Cal head coach Steve Desimone, who coached Morikawa as a freshman before retiring in 2016 after 37 years in charge. "You can be a good player and win, but major championships are the tournaments that almost always only the great players win. Of all the kids I've coached, he's up there in the top 2, 3 or 4, and you could make a case for No. 1. We've had so many great players, but he's won three times already, including a major at 23."

Morikawa said it took him until the night after winning the championship to sift through all of his texts and e-mails, and his phone was flooded again when he woke up Tuesday morning. He also received an e-mail from Ann Harrison, the Dean of the Haas School of Business.

Morikawa is one of many Cal golfers to have gone through the Haas School of Business. Most take a redshirt season to complete college in five years, but Morikawa told Desimone and Chun that he intended to get it all done in four years.

"That was the plan and I wasn't going to stray from it," Morikawa said. "Professional golf isn't going anywhere, but I never had plans to stay five years. I thought it was possible to get it done in four. I thought if I really did what I had to do, I'd be able to do it."
"Collin makes the unbelievable believable," Chun said.

One of the texts Morikawa received on Sunday was from former Cal men's water polo standout Johnny Hooper. The two became close friends as classmates at Haas and Hooper is pulling for Morikawa to make the U.S. Olympic Golf Team. Hooper is a member of Team USA for men's water polo.

"As soon as he had it in the bag, I sent him a picture of my TV screen and said, 'You're killing it'," Hooper said. "I texted him again right after he won and said, 'Amazing win. Don't stop there. Keep your foot on the gas and keep going.'"

The top four American golfers in the world rankings will make the Olympic Team next summer in Tokyo, and Morikawa is currently the third-rated U.S. golfer.

"It would be unreal for us, and the Cal community," Hooper said.

Morikawa recognizes the place his accomplishments take in Cal golf history, and it's something he welcomes. His passion for his alma mater is evergreen, as could be seen by the Cal golf notepad he used during the PGA Championship.

"Cal is going to be part of me," Morikawa said. "To make history with anything that is related to Cal, I think it will always be remembered. I hope it opens up numerous opportunities for Cal golf because Cal golf means so much. Having the opportunity to go to Cal, not just for golf but to study and get my degree, means a lot."

There are many who believe Morikawa is just getting started, and that he will continue to make history for Cal golf. His consistency, maturity and obvious talent should make him a fixture atop PGA leaderboards for years to come.

"I'm just overall so proud and happy for Collin, knowing how much hard work he's put in and how he carries himself," said Rick Sessinghaus, who has been Morikawa's swing coach since age 8. "I came home from teaching him one day and told my wife that this junior is going to be special. He was only 12 years old then. He had this presence and maturity about him."

The PGA Championship took place at Harding Park in San Francisco, and Morikawa will be back in the Bay Area next month to compete in the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort in Napa on Sept. 10-13.