Cal men’s golf enters the critical time of the season. This weekend, the team will make the short trip across the Bay to Stanford Golf Course for the Pac-12 championship hosted by No. 9 Stanford.
Cal has stayed local recently: This will be the Bears’ fifth tournament in a row in the state of California and the fourth in a row in the Bay Area.
The tournament will span three days from April 28 to April 30. Four teams participating in the tournament are ranked in the nation’s top 25: No. 4 Arizona State, No. 9 Stanford, No. 18 Arizona and No. 22 Oregon.
Washington will enter the tournament as the defending Pac-12 champions. The Huskies claimed both team and individual championships when hosting the tournament last April. Cal placed fifth, its highest team finish last season, while Sampson Zheng and Aaron Du produced the best individual finishes in a tie for 10th.
The Bears have improved on their performances from last season, being able to produce major team successes this season. This spring alone, they have placed within the top five on four occasions. Add this to the Bears’ win at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational this past October, and the work they have put in is clear.
Of course, overall team success is built on the backs of the players’ performances throughout the season. Junior Zheng has had a standout campaign and arguably the best of his collegiate career thus far. With three top-five finishes and an individual win this season, Zheng has led the Bears all season long with his impressive play. His recent selection to the 2023 Arnold Palmer Cup team serves as an international acknowledgement of his success.
Zheng’s teammates have also contributed in the six tournaments that have led up to the Pac-12 championship. Players such as Jeewon Park, Du and Simon Kwon are all veterans who have brought their experience and poise to the courses this season.
These four athletes will make the trip to Stanford, alongside freshmen Nathan Wang and Daniel Heo. These two players have competed in the last three tournaments, proving their ability to play at the highest level.
The Pac-12 championship could be the final tournament the Bears play this season, but this is a familiar pressure for them and it may encourage them to compete. The Bears have beaten Stanford once this spring already, and they have kept pace with numerous top-ranked schools.
The Bears have used their experiences and talent to come alive and create the momentum they need in the championship. A win this weekend would give the Bears an automatic bid to the NCAA regional championships next month. It would also secure a third Pac-12 championship for Cal, a title it hasn’t claimed since 2013.
The tournament will be played across four rounds, featuring 72 holes. Round one will tee off Friday morning, with round two following it later that afternoon. Round three will tee off Saturday morning, and the fourth and final round will commence Sunday morning.
The Bears have battled all season long to prove they can hold their own against higher-ranked teams. These battles have prepared them for the conference championship tournament, and the team will look to continue its ascension to the top.