The story that has been Cal’s 2023 season will end without a championship chapter.
Cal’s impressive season has come to a crushing end with a sixth place finish at the NCAA Morgan Hill regional this past week. In their first regional appearance since 2019, the Bears came just three strokes short of fifth place, No. 6 Pepperdine. The top five finishers are now set to advance to the NCAA championship in Arizona on May 26.
Finishing in the top five alongside Pepperdine were Baylor, No. 7 Florida State, BYU and tournament winner, No. 18 Mississippi State. The Bulldogs were the only team to stay under-par at the conclusion of the tournament. In the individual leaderboards, at the end of three rounds, Florida State’s Luke Clanton claimed sole possession of first place at six under-par. LMU’s Riley Lewis claimed second place after a three-hole playoff win against NC State’s Maximilian Steinlechner, to settle their tie.
For the Bears, their highest individual finish came from junior Sampson Zheng, who tied for seventh. After managing to stay under-par in both the opening and final rounds, Zheng shot three over through the rest of the rounds to ultimately bring him to an even score, a fitting conclusion to Zheng’s standout performance this season.
Despite the impressive performance from Zheng, the Bears still had their work cut out for them from the very beginning of the tournament.
Junior Aaron Du was the next highest finisher on the team, placing in an eight-way tie for 24th. He would shoot one over-par in the first and third rounds, with a three over sandwiched in between during round two — leaving him with a final score of five over-par. This is Du’s third best finish this spring after a tied 15th place finish in the Pac-12 championship and tied sixth at the Western Intercollegiate tournament .
Sophomore Simon Kwon and freshman Nathan Wang turned in respectable performances as underclassmen, both placing in a tie for 50th. Kwon’s tournament would derail in the second round after shooting ten over-par. However, Kwon was able to close out strong by shooting for par during the final round. Wang got off to a rough start by shooting nine over-par in the first round, but, like Kwon, was able to finish strong in the last two rounds by shooting two and one over, respectively.
Rounding out the lineup was freshman Daniel Heo, who placed in a four-way tie for 64th. Like Wang, his tournament would get off to a rough start by shooting four over in round one. While Heo rebounded in the second by shooting even, it would all come apart with a twelve over-par in the final round.
In their most successful season since 2019, the Bears faced a tough draw at Morgan Hill. For all five of Cal’s players, it was their first experience in the postseason. And though they fell short of advancing, this young team showed flashes of success throughout the year. For the Cal faithfuls, the performance from the blue and gold is promising.
While this story ends, so begins another. The Bears will now look ahead to preparations for the 2023-24 season. Certainly the new standard for success for Cal golf is set. It’s now up to next year’s team, featuring many returning players, to match it.