The conclusion of the Isleworth Collegiate saw Cal men’s golf finish in the middle of the pack with an eighth-place performance out of 15 participating teams. Though the results on the surface possibly seem subpar, the Bears provided a myriad of promise and potential in their final tournament of the fall fixture.
A prestigious and widely respected tournament in Windermere, Florida — the Isleworth Collegiate featured seven teams ranked within the top 50 nationally. These teams proved to be on another level. Straight out the gate, No. 3 Auburn (273-283-281 – 837, -27) dominated for an undisputed first place finish, with No. 11 Florida (286-278-285 – 849, -15) and No. 9 Illinois (294-285-278 – 857, -7) filling in the rest of the podium.
The Bears (293-296-290 – 879, +15) were able to stay in the mix throughout most of the competition, but were eventually overwhelmed by the remainder of the ranked programs who rounded out the top seven, with No. 24 Arizona (292-289-293 – 874, +10) five strokes ahead.
The blue and gold were without juniors Sampson Zheng and Aaron Du, who were both competing in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships in Thailand. Though the Bears lacked veteran leadership and an ace in Zheng (68.66 stroke average), the team managed to overcome obstacles and pinpoint bright spots of potential success for the future.
The first round displayed a solid effort by Cal men’s golf, as the Bears were tied for eighth place and right behind fifth place by just 2 strokes. Redshirt Tony Chen led the way with a 1-under-par 71 while playing nearly bogey-free golf, catapulting him to a top 15 performance individually for the day. Nathan Wang (+1), Simon Kwon (+2), and Jeewon Park (+3) were all close behind to keep the Bears within striking distance.
Jeewon Park exploded onto the scene on the second day, playing bogey-free golf to sport a 2-under-par 70. However, the rest of the team struggled to keep up, dropping three spots down to eleventh-place at a 13-over par overall. With Cal heavily behind the top ranked teams, the Bears just hoped to rebound from a forgetful performance and finish strong in the final round.
Bounce back they did.
Cal shot 2-over-par 290 for its best round of the entire tournament, and overcame a tight battle for an eighth-place overall finish. Freshman Nathan Wang (73-74-70 – 217, +1) tied for 20th individually, with Tony Chen (71-77-71 – 219, +3) close behind in a tie for 25th. The Bears had the best improvement in the team leaderboard, moving up more spots than any other team in the final round.
The Isleworth Collegiate displayed the Bears’ ability to overcome obstacles and spotlight key players who were able to step up big in a tournament featuring some of the top competition in the nation.
Though an eighth-place finish seemed lackluster, Cal men’s golf will utilize this learning experience for the winter slate of competitive play, beginning with the Arizona Intercollegiate beginning on January 30, 2023.