TUCSON, Ariz. – California dominated the opening 36 holes Monday at the Arizona Intercollegiate at Arizona National Golf Club.
“Sometimes you have one of those days when golf is fun,” Bears coach Steve Desimone said. “As a coach, you just sit back and enjoy it.”
With all five players under par and among the top 20, California shot 25-under 543 on a calm, sunny day in the desert. The Bears were seven strokes ahead of host Arizona, which came on strong at the end of the afternoon round and shot 13-under 271 for an 18-under 550 total.
Fresno State was seven shots behind the Wildcats in the 14-team field at 557, with Pepperdine next at 559. Florida, No. 3 in Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, was tied for fifth at 560 along with No. 6 and defending NCAA champion Texas A&M and New Mexico.
Individually, Cal’s Michael Weaver and New Mexico’s John Catlin led at 10-under 132. Weaver posted rounds of 64-68, while Catlin came in with a pair of 66s.
They hold a two-stroke lead over Arizona’s Rich Saferian (68-66) and Bhavik Patel of Fresno State (69-65). Jordan Russell of Texas A&M, competing as an individual, and Eric Mina of Cal follow at 6-under 136.
“I putted well, but then again, I didn’t have many putts over 12 feet,” said Weaver, a freshman and former AJGA All-American. “I really wedged it well today. I missed a few putts, but overall I’m very pleased with my putting and my ball striking.”
At one point, Weaver got it to 12 under, but he made two bogeys over his last five holes.
“I didn’t finish as well as I would have liked, but to be at 10 under and in the lead, I can’t complain,” he said.
In addition to Weaver and Mina, the Bears got solid performances from Brandon Hagy and Stephen Hale, who are tied for 10th at 139, and Chad Vivelo, who is tied for 18th at 140.
“We had perfect weather and conditions out there today,” said Desimone. “But even with that, 25 under on this golf course is pretty darn good. Considering all things, yes, you could say I’m pleasantly surprised. But when you have good players, things like this can happen.”
The Bears had their ups and downs during the fall season, but still finished ranked No. 30 in Golfweek’s rankings.
“We really didn’t play at full strength all fall,” Desimone said. “We battled through some injuries and the swine flu. Still, we won twice so I knew these guys had a lot of talent and potential.”
The Arizona Intercollegiate concludes Tuesday with the final 18 holes. Desimone knows even with his lead and how well his Bears are playing, it is far from being over.
“I’ve been in this situation (leading going into the last round) many times over the years,” he said. “One thing I know, there aren’t any trophies for 36 holes. There’s a lot of fire power behind us. These teams are going to say, ‘If Cal can do it (shoot low numbers), so can we.’ Still, I like our position.”
California was in a class by itself over the morning’s initial 18 holes as the Bears placed four players among the top 16 and fired a 15-under 269. That was 10 strokes clear of Arizona. Nevada was third at 4-under 280, followed by Florida (281) and Texas A&M and New Mexico (283).
Weaver led the Bears, and the tournament, after a 7-under 64, two strokes better than Catlin, Tarquin MacManus of Arizona and A&M’s Russell.
Beginning on the 15th hole in the shotgun start, Weaver made three pars before notching his first birdie at the par-5 18th. He gave it right back with his only bogey at No. 1.
Then he went on a tear. He birdied three of his next four holes and closed his front nine with four pars. He grained total control on the back side with birdies at Nos. 10, 11, 13 and 14.