California's run comes to an end at NCAAs
HUTCHINSON, Kan. – “It had the potential for a better ending,” California head coach Steve Desimone said while fighting back tears in what was most likely his final interview of the season with the media.
The Bears, ranked sixth by Golfweek, shot a final-round 2-over 282 at Prairie Dunes Country Club on Memorial Day, ending arguably one of the best runs in college golf. The team currently sits seven shots back of eighth place (10-over 580).
Teams 1-15 tee off this afternoon in order to fight for a top-8 spot and advance to match play at the 2014 NCAA Championship. So, the Bears will sit and wait to see if teams will start to fall back down the leaderboard, but Cal senior Joel Stalter believed seven shots was a little too big of a margin.
PHOTOS: NCAA Championships (Monday)
View images from Monday's play of the Men's NCAA Division 1 Championship at Prairie Dunes Country Club.
At one point early Monday morning, the Bears got their final round to 5 under and into a tie with UCLA for the eighth spot, but struggled coming in. Senior Brandon Hagy tripled the par-5 17th after losing his tee ball, while fellow classmate Michael Weaver went bogey-double bogey on Nos. 16-17, respectively.
“It was tough because I was grinding the whole day,” Hagy said. “One poor swing at the end is kind of frustrating.”
Since December, the Bears have faced adversity – reigning player of the year Michael Kim left to turn pro prior to the spring season. But with a solid group of seniors – the “Big Three” as some like to call them – Hagy, Stalter and Weaver, the team remained in the top 10 and won three times.
The team barely made it to NCAAs after posting a final-round 302 at the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional. It was only after Clemson struggled down the stretch that allowed the Bears to advance.
Unlike last year where the team was the clear favorite at NCAAs after winning 12 of 14 stroke-play events, the Bears came into this championship with low expectations.
The team knew it had to post some low numbers to get into match play, but that didn’t fully pan out.
Over the seniors' five-year career (Hagy and Weaver redshirted a year), the Bears won 30 of 68 stroke-play tournaments from 2009-14.
“It may have ended very difficult today, but when you put in perspective of what these guys accomplished, the last five years, it’s been an amazing run,” Desimone said. “I’m so proud of them.”
Stalter said: “My freshman year I would dream to play on a top-10 team and then two years later, we ended up being one of the best teams to ever play. I don’t know how it gets much better.”
The final day in Kansas for the Bears had reflections of the 2013 NCAA Championship, when Cal lost to Illinois in the match-play semifinals. It was heartbreaking for the team and coaches. For Desimone and associate head coach Walter Chun, this is only the start of something special for the "Big Three" and their future.
“It hurts when they hurt,” Desimone added.
This may sting for a while.