The season has been full of highs for the Bears. Three top-five finishes and an individual medal have all contributed to high morale within the clubhouse. They will now take on their final and, arguably, biggest test of the regular season, playing in the Western Intercollegiate in Santa Cruz to start the week, and later the El Macero Classic in Davis to close out the week and season.
The Western is set to be hosted by San Jose State University and will span three days. The 54-hole event will feature a 14-team playing field, with several ranked opponents including No. 8 Stanford, No. 9 Pepperdine and No. 17 Arizona.
The Texas Longhorns won the 2022 edition of the Western Intercollegiate, finishing just one stroke ahead of Pepperdine to claim the title. Pepperdine’s Dylan Menante won the individual title, also being the only player to finish under par in the field. Cal placed seventh last year, with a tie for 24th from Sampson Zheng and Simon Kwon being the blue and gold’s highest individual finishes.
Texas will not be playing in the Western this year, meaning there is a guaranteed new winner. This opportunity is big for the Bears as they bring along their rising stars for a chance to claim their third Western team title and first since 2013.
The six-person lineup will be spearheaded by junior Zheng. He is fresh off a tie for fifth place in the Goodwin, where he shot his collegiate low of 64. Zheng looks to continue his stellar campaign to round out the regular season.
Junior Jeewon Park will come in the second slot. He last played in the Lamkin in March where he finished tied for 42nd as an individual. In his first season as a Bear, Park has been nothing short of a workhorse, playing in eight events across the season and adding another veteran presence to the clubhouse.
Smack in the middle in the third slot will be junior Aaron Du. He tied for 40th in the Goodwin and will play in his eighth event this season. Du has been on somewhat of a down season after claiming his first collegiate win at last year’s Burns, but his continued presence in the lineups shows that he continues to deliver.
Freshman Nathan Wang will play fourth. Last tying for 78th at the Goodwin, Wang is playing in his eighth event for the Bears this season. The young star is continuing to prove himself in the clubhouse and has another opportunity to hone his skills this season.
At the tail end of the lineup in the fifth slot is sophomore Kwon. Kwon tied for 52nd in the Goodwin and hopes to impress in the Western like he did last season.
Rounding out the lineup is freshman Daniel Heo. Having tied for 32nd at the Goodwin, the young upstart will be playing in his fifth tournament this season as he continues to catch eyes.
Redshirt junior Costas Panay will play individually in the Western. Panay has been in the team lineup every tournament this spring, but will now play individually for the first time since the Alister Mackenzie in October.
The tournament will be broadcast live on the Golf Channel across the three days of play. Monday and Tuesday action will run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PST while Wednesday’s action will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. PST.
The Bears will have only one day of rest between the Western and the El Macero Classic, which is set to kick off on Friday. 20 teams will participate in the El Macero and Cal will look to claim its first title in the tournament.
It will be a busy week for the Bears, but a week that serves as a test before the Pac-12 championships at the end of the month.