California, An hitting their strides this fall
Lance Ringler's College Golf Page
University of California coach Steve Desimone says he spent the past few years building for this season. Many probably wouldn’t have believed him after the Bears’ first tournament.
At its first event of the fall, the Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields, Cal finished 12th out of 15 teams, with highly anticipated recruit Ben An tying for 66th in his first college tournament.
“I’ve been doing this for more than a year or two,” said Desimone, in his 32nd year with the Bears. “Sometimes everything clicks in the first tournament, and sometimes nothing goes right. Kids are still adjusting to school and playing golf and traveling. Obviously, we didn’t make that adjustment very well.”
Whatever kinks the Bears needed to work out were gone the next week, when Cal took third at the Windon Memorial. Since then, the Bears have won their past two starts, including a record-setting victory this week at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational, where they shot 48 under at Meadow Golf Club, their home course, to beat San Diego State by two. A week earlier, Cal won The Prestige at PGA West.
“The combination of playing on the difficult Stadium Course (at PGA West) and getting a win had set us up really well (for the MacKenzie),” Desimone said. “But good teams play their home course well, and great teams play their home course really well. This is really starting to look like a great team.”
An, the 2009 U.S. Amateur champ and a semifinalist this year, has found his stride as well. After the bumpy start at Olympia Fields, where An said he was feeling a little ill, he has finished T-6, third and T-2 in his past three events, putting up rounds of 65-64-69 for a 15-under 198 total at the MacKenzie.
“In the two or three chances we had to play (after Olympia Fields) before our next tournament, Ben was really rounding into form,” Desimone said. “His misses really narrowed, his putting was sharpening. All of a sudden, it looked like it was coming together, and he hasn’t slowed down since.”
An attributes some of his early success to the experience he gained from winning the Amateur, which earned him invites to the U.S. Open, the Masters, the British Open and a number of sponsor exemptions. But he also believes that playing on a team has helped him maintain his focus.
“I’ve had a few rounds that have started poorly, but because I’m on the team, I really keep battling and trying to play better,” An said. “I know I can’t just blow up my round, because all the other guys are counting on me to play well. Until the 18th hole is over, I really just don’t want to give up.”
Neither, it seems, do the rest of the Bears.
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One-two punch: Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein is No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings for a reason. Actually, for six of them.
In his past six college events, Uihlein has not finished worse than second place, dating to last year’s Big 12 Championship, where he finished solo second. To finish out last season, Uihlein won the NCAA Southeast Regional and finished T-2 at the NCAA Championship.
This year, he opened the season with a win at Olympia Fields, finished T-2 at the Ping/Golfweek Preview and this week finished second at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational.
And that’s not even mentioning his wins this summer at the U.S. Amateur and Sahalee Players Championship, or his T-2 finish at the Porter Cup.
The Cowboys, No. 2 in the rankings behind UCLA, haven’t exactly been slouching as a team, either. Their victory this week at the Nicklaus Invitational was their second of the year in three events.
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Missing in action: Stanford was without standout senior David Chung for the second consecutive event when the Cardinal teed it up this week at The Prestige at PGA West.
Chung, who also missed the season-opening Fighting Illini Invitational, has been out of the lineup because of a personal matter. Although the Cardinal finished well down the leaderboard (T-9) at the season opener, Stanford (T-2) finished just three shots behind first-place Cal at PGA West, thanks to sophomore Andrew Yun’s first college victory.
Chung had one of the best summers of any amateur in the country this year, winning the Porter Cup and Western Amateur before losing in the finals of the U.S. Amateur to Uihlein. Because of that performance, he earned a spot on the World Amateur Team Championship squad alongside Uihlein and Illinois’ Scott Langley.
The event kicks off in Buenos Aires, Argentina, next week and will be Chung’s first event since the U.S. Am.
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Short shots: After nine previous top 10s in his college career, Illinois’ Luke Guthrie finally got his first win last week at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational. The Fighting Illini finished second, six shots behind Oklahoma State. ... UT-Arlington, No. 80 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, claimed a seven-shot victory over No. 27 Notre Dame at the Lone Star Invitational last week. North Texas, ranked No. 23, finished third. ... Huntingdon College, the runner-up at this year’s Golfweek Division III Fall Invitational, has continued its fall success, finishing second and first, respectively, in their two events since the Invite. On the other hand, Greensboro College, winner by 10 shots at the Golfweek Invitational, has posted eighth- and sixth-place finishes.
A look ahead
What: Isleworth Collegiate Invitational
When: Oct. 24-26
Where: Isleworth Golf & Country Club, Windermere, Fla.
What’s important: With PGA Tour professionals lurking around every corner, the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational is one of the events every college team hopes to attend. Five of the country’s top 10 teams will tee it up, including defending Isleworth champion Oklahoma State (minus Peter Uihlein, who will be competing at the World Amateur Team Championship), Florida, Alabama, Texas and LSU. Also included in the top-notch field are Georgia (winners of four Isleworth titles since the tournament’s inception in 2004), Texas Tech, Arizona, Central Florida, Ohio State, SMU, Tennessee, TCU and Vanderbilt.