A challenging weekend in Guadalajara has ended with the Bears coming in fourth place at the Collegiate Invitational. In its first tournament of the spring, Cal finished 30 overpa r, which was better than three schools in the current top 25 national rankings.
The tournament was a Baylor lockout, as it secured both individual and team wins. The No. 24 Baylor Bears broke away from the field in the final round, finishing just eight shots over par. Junior Rose Belsham claimed the individual medal by just one stroke over Georgia’s Jenny Bae.
“Fourth place finish here is really good if you look at all the teams and their ranking. It was kind of a roller coaster out there, playing really well in the first round, and then in the second round having a struggle, and then coming back in the third round and playing as well as they did.” said head coach Nancy McDaniel.
The tournament came earlier than usual for the blue and gold, but that did not strike their confidence. On the tee in Mexico was junior Cristina Ochoa, senior Tzu-Yi Chang, sophomore Jieming Yang, junior Mika Jin and graduate senior Annika Borrelli.
The 54 holes were split across two days — Feb. 5 and 6, also being split into three rounds. The first 27 were played on Sunday morning, with the next 27 being played on Monday.
Borrelli, fresh off her NCGA Player of the Year win, showed off her prowess in round one, carding a four under par, and giving her sole possession of first place. Borrelli was one of five players that were able to keep their scorecards under-par in the first round.
Chang was next in the standings for Cal, going one over par and landing in a four-way tie for tenth place. Ochoa followed, going three over on her way to a seven-way tie for 18th. Yang shot six over in a five-way tie for 38th. Rounding out the scores from the first was Jin who shot nine over for sole possession of 54th place.
The second round proved to be much more challenging for the Blue and Gold. Borrelli fell from first down to a seven-way tie for 11th after carding nine shots over par. Joining her in the seven-way tie was Ochoa who shot two over to come up from 18th. Chang shot six over par, dropping her into a six-way tie for 22nd. Jin improved on her round one score shooting just two over while jumping the standings into a five-way tie for 38th. Yang would shoot 15 over and drop into a three-way tie for 59th.
Entering the final 18-holes, while sitting in fifth place, the team total had stood at 25 shots over par.
Borrelli would shoot 72 even in the final round, giving her sole possession of ninth place. This is now her highest finish of the season with the team, her previous high came at the season-opening Olympic Club Invitational.
Ochoa finished her third round shooting two over par, landing her in a five-way tie for 13th. This is Ochoa’s second-highest finish in a tournament for the Bears this season. She had previously finished third in the Olympic Club Invitational.
“Having two players finish in the top 15 in this field is really needed in the leadership aspect. Seeing top-10 from Annika and top 15 from Cristina, then you get more of the team believing that they can really do it. That’s inspiring.” said McDaniel
Jin came in next in the individual standings in a five-way tie for 28th having shot one over-par in the final round. This is Jin’s third best finish with the team this season.
Chang placed in a three-way tie for 40th after having shot eight over-par in the final round. Chang was the only member of the team that had played at the last Collegiate Invitational in 2020. This appearance in the team lineup was her first of the season for the Bears.
Rounding out the scores for the Bears was Yang coming in sole possession of 56th place. She would shoot two over in the final round of the tournament. This is Yang’s lowest score in five tournaments for Cal this season.
“It’s a really solid start for our team to start believing that we are a team that can be at the national championship. They didn’t play their best, they have a lot to sharpen up and still they finished fourth in a really good field, so there’s a lot of opportunity still out there and I think we’re hungry after that.” said McDaniel.
Cal will now take three weeks to prepare for their next event on the calendar, the Gunrock Invitational in Sacramento. The team played with grit and passion in Mexico and will look to carry that same fire with them throughout the season.