This past weekend in Palo Alto saw an opportunity for Cal to make its big break early in the season. Following some relatively positive results at its first three appearances, Cal was in a position to shine through a field of 19 teams, seven of which are ranked in the Top 20. However, the blue and gold came out flat on Friday and failed to pick it up the rest of the weekend, ending in a disappointing 16th place.
The Bears started the tournament with a 7:30 AM tee time on Friday, facing down 6,269 yards of the par-71 Stanford Golf Course. With the same team they fielded in their other two tournaments this year, Cal looked to build off of its past few solid performances and come out hot. Alas, it came out anything but. Shooting a 294 (+10) after the first day, Cal found itself in a hole right out of the gate, slotting in at 16th. Especially with the top-level talent present at this tournament, this deficit made hopes of cracking even the top half of the field nearly unsalvageable.
The Bears’ fortune did not improve much over the course of the weekend: a 296 (+12) on Saturday and a 293 (+9) on Sunday rounded out the tournament and, besides reaching a tie for 15th on the second day, the Bears stayed at that 16th place position for the entire weekend. With a familiar course in front of them and the opportunity to show the country that they could keep up with the big shots, the Bears could not answer the call. Fellow Bay Area schools made appearances on the podium, with hosts and favorites Stanford taking first and 19th-ranked San Jose State finishing in third behind Iowa State.
Junior Mika Jin bounced back from a relatively poor start to the year to lead the Bears at 4-over, with sophomore Jieming Yang right behind her at 6-over. Jin finished tied for 35th and matched her score of 4-over from the USF Intercollegiate, although this course was more difficult overall. Yang, on the other hand, rode a hot streak into this tournament following her career-high 2-under round on the final day at Blessings Intercollegiate. She was poised to once again place high among the Bears and did so by going even on the last round, finishing tied for 43rd.
A surprising result came from graduate student Annika Borrelli: a 228 3-round performance put her at 15-over for the tournament, bringing up the rear for Cal and ending at 86th place. Borrelli was the most consistent player for the Bears leading up to this tournament, but her game was off this weekend, and the blue and gold were thus lacking that third sub-(+10) player that could have possibly gotten them as far as the top 13.
This relatively disappointing result nonetheless had its bright spots. The two youngest players on the course for the Bears, sophomore Jieming Yang and freshman Adora Liu, both had eagles in the second round on hole 12. While the former’s success at Palo Alto has already been covered, Liu’s improvements in this tournament can’t be overlooked. The freshman from Fremont had previously placed as the last individual for Cal in both tournaments, but this time around, she came fourth and managed to string together a pair of respectable 75s on Saturday and Sunday. This team can be fully complete if she begins to break out.
Cal will look to learn from this tournament and put the unsatisfactory result behind it. The blue and gold wrap up their fall season at Nanea Golf Course in Hawaii with the Pac-12 Preview next week. Three rounds of par-73 golf will tee off beginning on Halloween Monday, as the Bears try to return to form and end the season strong.