Cal women’s golf headed down to Fayetteville, Arkansas for the Blessings Collegiate Invitational looking to rebound from their comprehensive defeat at the hands of Stanford in last week’s Big Match. The tournament’s stiff competition and remarkably challenging course would prove to frustrate the Bears’ hopes of a resounding response.
Cal opened the three-day tournament Oct. 3. From the opening tee, it was clear the Bears were in for a long day at the course. Blessings Golf Club presented major problems for the entire pool, and the tournament quickly devolved into very high scores –– only three golfers finished under par at the conclusion of the first day of play.
Despite the Bears’ struggles with the course, they finished day one in the middle of the pack. Cal placed sixth out of the 11-team pool, within striking distance of UNLV and No. 2 Texas A&M.
Graduate transfer Annika Borrelli, in particular, played stellar golf and pulled more than her weight –– she dazzled spectators with an eagle on the second hole to catch fire early, which she maintained throughout the entire first day. She finished round one in sixth place individually at one over par.
But while the Bears hoped to build on the first round’s performance and challenge the top half of the standings, the second day of play saw only Cal’s struggles grow.
The blue and gold shot 307 Tuesday, two strokes worse than their first round score, leaving them in seventh place at the end of the second round. Borrelli continued to be Cal’s shining light –– she finished even par during day two. This score put her third out of the 57 player pool.
Under threat of taking a serious tumble in the standings, Cal finally pieced together a rally on the third and final day of golf. Led by sophomore Jieming Yang, the Bears shot their best score of the tournament, a 302, to maintain their seventh-place spot. Yang shot 2-under 70, her career-best score for Cal and the Bears’ best individual score of the tournament.
Yang’s dominant performance thrust her into 24th place, Cal’s highest-placing individual. She finished one stroke better than Borrelli, who faded in the last day of play, shooting an 84.
“Anyone able to get under par on the Blessings is stroking it well and managing their game off the tee,” said Cal head coach Nancy McDaniel in a press release. “We’re just really proud of her for sticking with it all the way through. She showed a lot of grit.”
Cal will certainly be frustrated by their high scores and unglamorous seventh-place finish. But between the tournament’s tough competition ––six of 11 teams competing were ranked in the top 15 –– and particularly challenging course, Cal can also leave Arkansas with some reason for optimism. Its finish above No. 14 UCF should serve as an encouraging sign of what the team is capable of achieving.
“Playing a championship course like this gives us a good look at what’s needed to do to come back in May,” McDaniel said. “Getting the chance to play three rounds here is really important to our season.”
With the Big Match against No. 1 Stanford just days before three very constructive rounds at Blessings Collegiate Invitational, Cal has had a particularly competitive past week. The Bears will enjoy their two weeks of rest before they return to play in the Stanford Intercollegiate on Oct. 21.