After a disappointing performance to close out the 2020-21 season, the Bears are back and ready for redemption.
Cal women’s golf will return to the field Monday, kick-starting its season in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the Dick McGuire Invitational. The two-day tournament consists of 54 holes of stroke play and will be hosted by the University of New Mexico on its Championship Golf Course, marking the second time this year UNM has been home to this particular event.
The 42nd annual Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational was played at UNM in April and hosted 12 women’s golf teams from across the country, among which were nationally ranked Arizona, Kansas State and Colorado State. Cal was absent for the desert rendezvous.
The blue and gold concluded the previous season with an embarrassing last-place finish in the women’s golf Pac-12 championships, joining only ninth-place Washington to miss the NCAA regional competition. Meanwhile, USC claimed its third conference title in the past six years. The Bears have only earned such an honor twice in the history of the tournament, with the last time being in 2012.
Adding on to the hurt and disappointment, Cal was unrepresented in the list of individual leaders, the Pac-12 all-conference team and the Pac-12 honorable mentions. The highest performer on the team was senior Katherine Zhu, who tied for 25th place, followed by senior Eun Soo Jeon, who tied for 38th.
Despite the hard losses and harsh criticism, the team has much to look forward to this season — after all, it’s hard to do worse than last place. Zhu remains a beacon of hope for the organization in her fourth and perhaps final year in the program. For the past two seasons, she has led the team in scoring, averaging 74.3 last year. This is supplemented by her immaculate freshman and sophomore seasons, during which she surpassed Marianne Li’s lowest freshman scoring average at Cal, won her first collegiate tournament at the Gunrock Invitational and was recognized as the No. 85 golfer in the nation.
In August, Zhu made it past Stage I of the 2021 Ladies Professional Golf Association Qualifying School by shooting a 3-over-par and placing 85th out of 336 golfers, marking her as the only Bear to make it out of the first round. If she decides to continue, Zhu will head to Plantation, Florida, for Stage II on Oct. 21-24.
As the season opener draws nearer, it will come down to Zhu and her teammates to shake off last season’s blunder, bypass the discouragement and strive to do better. Cal women’s golf does not have a history of winning. Is this the season the Bears surprise everyone and everything changes? Or will precedent hold true and disappointment befall yet again?