2004: Desimone, Haas garner Golfweek awards

By Ron Balicki

High profile teams with rich golf traditions, big budgets and the ability to attract marquee junior players are supposed to contend for the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship.

The University of California does not fall into that category. Yet this year, the Cal program, a club sport from 1979-82, became the national champion, winning its first NCAA golf title June 4 at The Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Va.

The Bears accomplished it thanks to years of hard work and determination from their coach Steve Desimone. And, with national title in hand, Desimone has been named Golfweek’s College Coach of the Year.

Also garnering Golfweek’s top honors for 2003-04 was Wake Forest’s Bill Haas as Player of the Year.

Haas, a senior, finished No. 1 in this season’s Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings with a 67.92 rating to edge UNLV junior and NCAA medalist Ryan Moore, who ended with a 68.67 rating.

“Obviously I’m pleased with the season I had and my career at Wake Forest,” said Haas. “It has been a wonderful experience. I set some goals at the start of the year and, for the most part, I think I accomplished most of them. My only regret was the team did not make it (NCAA finals). I really wanted for us to have a chance to play for a national title.”

Haas, who qualified for this week’s U.S. Open and plans to turn pro following the event, played in 14 tournaments this season and finished with a 68.93 stroke average, an NCAA single-season record. He had five tournament victories, including the NCAA East Regional, which made him the all-time Wake Forest career victory leader with 10. He had 12 top-5 finishes, including his second at the NCAA Championship.

Desimone, a 1970 Cal graduate who became coach of the club team in 1980, was determined

to turn the Bears’ program into a winner, even though, other than Desimone’s salary, there would be no financial support from the school or the athletic department.

He guided Cal to its first NCAA finals appearance in 1995, where the Bears placed sixth and led them to berths in 1998, ’99 and 2000. This year, Cal overcame an eight-shot deficit the last day and beat UCLA by six strokes for the title.

“It is a thrill to be named as (Golfweek) coach of the year,” Desimone said. “It’s a wonderful honor, a great honor. But the credit goes to the guys on the team. This is a very talented team and a veteran team that really didn’t get their due throughout much of the season. This award is as much theirs as it is mine.”

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