After shooting a personal collegiate best 65 (-7), Sampson Zheng was able to keep the Bears in contention on his way to claiming a share of the John A. Burns Intercollegiate title. Zheng was named co-medalist alongside Texas A&M’s Sam Bennett, who stormed up the leaderboards during the final round shooting 11 under-par.
Normally, there would have been a playoff to determine a sole winner, but due to the approaching darkness, the decision was made to crown two medalists.
“Sampson was just in a great mindset all tournament long. He was in the zone from start to finish, nothing really affected him — he was patient, he was very committed to what he was doing and very confident in himself,” said head coach Walter Chun.
As a team, the Bears came in fourth, behind two top-20 schools — No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 19 Arizona. The Bears finished by shooting 27 under par, storming back from a hole they found themselves in after the second round of play.
The team medal was claimed by BYU, which was at the top of the leaderboard at the end of every round of play. The Cougars shot for 54 under par, setting the 54-hole team low record in the Burns.
Coach Chun emphasized that, despite A&M and Arizona being ranked significantly higher than Cal at the start of the season, the team managed to hold its own to narrow the gap.
“It shows them that they’re making progress and they’re showing improvement, but it also shows them and us where we need to keep improving to compete with the best teams in the country,” Chun said. “We don’t want to be complacent, we want to get better and better.”
Eight members of the team made the trip to Hawaii: Jeewon Park, Costas Panay, Zheng, Nathan Wang and Aaron Du were a part of the team lineup. The individual side of the tournament saw Daniel Heo, Ethan Chung and Simon Kwon competing on behalf of the blue and gold.
The Bears were led by Zheng’s collegiate low in round one along with Du’s three under par. Panay shot one under, putting him in a 14-way tie for 31st place, while Park was able to shoot evenly placing him in a 12-way tie for 45th. Wang shot three over and found himself in an eight-way tie for 92nd.
As for the individual competition, Kwon also shot three under par and was alongside Du in a four-way tie for 14th. Not far behind the two Bears, Chung found himself in a 13-way tie for 18th after shooting two under. Rounding out the individual competition was Heo, who shot two over in a 13-way tie for 79th. At the end of round one, the Bears found themselves in second place with a total score of 11 under-par.
In round two, however, the Bears faced some adversity. Zheng kept pace shooting four under and remaining in a three-way tie for second. Facing strong winds, Du shot five over par, while Panay shot three over and both fell drastically to find themselves in an eight-way tie for 78th. Also struggling in this round was Wang, who shot three over and fell into an eight-way tie for 102nd.
Seemingly doing better in adverse conditions, Park shot two under, jumping up to a ten-way tie for 34th, joined by Kwon who shot one over par. Not far behind them sat Chung and Heo in 44th.
The team was finally able to come together and climb up the standings in round three. Chung claimed the second-highest finish for the Bears, shooting four under on his way to a tie for 26th. Panay shot his tournament best five under par, while Kwon shot one under to get both players tied for 38th. To finish off the tournament, Heo found himself tied for 58th, while Park, Du and Wang stood at 67th, 73rd and 84th, respectively.
Chun emphasized how proud he was of his team, especially after finding themselves down in the standings.
“The guys had to sleep on that Thursday night, so I really give the guys credit, I’m really proud of them for just staying patient and being resilient,” Chun said. “There could have been a lot of things that went south on us Friday morning but they just kept grinding.”
The Bears continued to show their signs of improvement in Hawaii, posting their lowest tournament score this season at 837 shots and holding their own against some of the best in the nation.
The team will now take two weeks to prepare for their next tournament — the San Diego Classic, hosted by San Diego State University. The Bears have momentum, so only time will tell if they can keep it rolling.