Head coach Steve Desimone is in his 35th season at the helm of the Cal men’s golf team in 2013-14 and has led the Golden Bears’ program to sustained success over the last three and a half decades. Cal won its lone national title in 2004 but the run his team has put together since the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign is unprecedented not only at Cal but arguably on a national level.
Cal won a combined 18 of 26 stroke-play events during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 campaigns and was in the top five in all 26 as well as each of its four match-play tournaments during the period. Both seasons the Bears reached the national semifinals, while sweeping NCAA Regional and Pac-12 Championship crowns. Desimone earned the 2013 Dave Williams Award presented by Eaton Golf Pride as the national coach of the year in Division I men’s golf and was the Pac-12 Coach of the Year each campaign to mark the second and third times in his career he earned the honor.
In addition to the run Cal has made over the last two seasons, the Bears have also qualified for the NCAA Championship each of the past four campaigns to set a school record.
Cal finished the 2012-13 season as the nation’s No. 1 ranked team by Golfweek and Golfstat despite being defeated by Illinois in the NCAA Championship match-play semifinals that followed a quarterfinal match-play victory over Arizona State and the posting of the top 54-hole stroke-play score of the event to earn the top seed for match play for the first time in school history during the event hosted by Georgia Tech at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course. Cal was also the top-ranked team in the final Golf World/Nike Golf Division I Coaches Poll released prior to the NCAA Championship. Cal became the nation’s No. 1-ranked team in all three sets of rankings shortly after winning its first two events of the campaign in late September of 2012 and never dropped out of the top spot in any of them.
In 2012-13, Cal set a modern-era NCAA win record with 12 victories in 14 stroke-play tournaments, eclipsing the previously established record of 10 by the 1985-86 Oklahoma State team. Cal’s first five wins came at the Gopher Invitational, PING/Golfweek Preview (shared with Georgia Tech), Pac-12 Preview, Alister MacKenzie Invitational and Isleworth Collegiate Invitational to record the first sweep of its fall schedule in school history. Cal won six of eight stroke-play tournaments in the spring including its stroke-play finish at the NCAA Championship in addition to titles at the NCAA Pullman Regional and Pac-12 Championship (hosted by UCLA at the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club) to sweep NCAA Regional and conference titles for the past two seasons, with all five Cal players in the lineup finishing in the top 15 in both events. Cal also had wins during the spring at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate, Fresno State Lexus Classic, Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters and Western Intercollegiate, as well as a second-place showing at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational, a third-place finish at the Arizona Intercollegiate and a tied for third place outcome in match play at the NCAA Championship.
Michael Kim became the first Cal player to win national player of the year honors, sweeping the Haskins Award, Jack Nicklaus Award and Golfweek/Sagarin Player of the Year. In addition, he was one of three national finalists for The Ben Hogan Award presented to the best college golfer in the nation for their amateur play by the GCAA. Kim, along with Max Homa and Michael Weaver were all first-team PING Division I All-Americans, with Kim adding first-team Golfweek All-Americans, while Homa and Weaver were second-team choices. All three were also All-West Region and first-team All-Pac-12 selections, while Brandon Hagy and Joël Stalter were both second-team PING Division I and Golfweek All-Americans, PING Division All-West Region picks and second-team All-Pac-12 selections. In addition, the Bears swept Pac-12 Player of the Month honors in 2012-13, with Kim (October 2012, April 2013) and Homa (September 2012, April 2013) winning twice each, and Stalter picking up the honor for February 2013.
Cal players at least shared individual medalist honors a school-record 10 times in 2012-13 led by the school-record four captured by Kim (Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, Arizona Intercollegiate, Fresno State Lexus Classic, Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters). Homa (NCAA Championship, Pac-12 Championship) and Stalter (Arizona Intercollegiate, John A. Burns Intercollegiate) won twice each, with Homa becoming the first Cal player to ever win the NCAA title and the third to win the Pac-12 crown. Weaver (NCAA Pullman Regional) and Hagy (Alister MacKenzie Invitational) were individual medalists one time each.
The NCAA title earned Homa the Arnold Palmer Award presented by Callaway given annually to the individual medalist at the NCAA Championship.
Kim also captured the Golfstat Cup given to a single player for all levels of collegiate golf with the lowest adjusted stroke average in the nation heading into the NCAA Championship. Kim (70.14), Homa (70.56), Stalter (70.68), Hagy (70.80) and Weaver (70.92) all finished with stroke-play averages under 71.00. Kim was the No. 1-ranked player nationally in the final rankings by Golfweek while he finished at No. 4 according to Golfstat. Cal had five players ranked in the top 20 by Golfweek (No. 1 Kim, No. 11 Weaver, No. 12 Stalter, No. 13 Homa, No. 19 Hagy) and top 25 according to Golfstat (No. 4 Kim, No. 10 Homa, No. 16 Stalter, No. 22 Hagy, No. 23 Weaver).
Weaver also became the first current Cal player to participate in the Masters in 2013 after qualifying for the event with a runner-up finish at the 2012 U.S. Amateur. In addition, Weaver gained an exemption for the 2013 U.S. Open (June 13-16) with his U.S. Amateur showing and was joined by Kim and Homa, who reached the U.S. Open through sectional qualifying. Kim was the low amateur at the U.S. Open with a tied for 17th place finish, while Weaver also made the cut. The trio became what is believed to be the first from the same collegiate team to play in the same U.S. Open. Kim (United States), Stalter (Europe) and Weaver (United States) played for their respective countries in the 2013 Palmer Cup. Hagy, Homa, Kim and Weaver were among 16 players nationally to participate in practices and are under consideration for the 2013 Walker Cup (Sept. 6-8).
Early in the 2012-13 spring season, the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association heaped a prestigious honor on Desimone when he becomes the first coach to ever be presented with the Jack Lemmon Ambassador of Golf Award at the organization’s 54th annual gala event at The Inn at Spanish Bay during the week of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on February 5, 2013.
The team’s 2012-13 season came on the heels of a 2011-12 campaign in which Desimone was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the second time in his career and added GCAA/Eaton West Regional Coach of the Year honors for the first time. His 2011-12 squad reached the national semifinals and posted a series of firsts along the way that included a trip to NCAA Championship match play as well as a match-play victory in the quarterfinals of the event hosted by USC at The Riviera Country Club. Cal also won NCAA Regional and Pac-12 titles for the first time in events hosted by Stanford and Oregon State, posted a then-school-record six tournament wins that doubled the previous total before being doubled in 2012-13, and had top-five finishes in each of the squad’s 15 events (12 stroke play, three match play). Cal finished the season ranked No. 3 by both Golfstat and in the Golf World/Nike Golf Division I Coaches Poll, while Golfweek put the Bears at No. 6. The squad featured three PING Division I All-Americans in Hagy, Homa and Kim.
Cal opened the 2011-12 campaign with a victory at the Wolverine Intercollegiate and also shared a win with Oregon at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational hosted by the Bears in the fall. The team’s Pac-12 and NCAA Regional wins in the two events leading up to the NCAA Championship were preceded by victories at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate and ASU Thunderbird Invitational earlier in the spring. Cal also finished second twice by a single stroke during the spring schedule to host schools Arizona at the Arizona Intercollegiate and UNLV at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters. Hagy, Homa and Kim were each named second-team All-Pac-12 and shared team MVP honors, with Kim adding the squad’s Newcomer of the Year award. Stalter was honorable mention all-conference and the team’s Most Improved Player. Homa (71.19) narrowly edged Hagy (71.41) and Kim (71.41) for the team’s lowest stroke average. Homa tied for ninth individually at the NCAA Championship, which at the time was the second-highest finish ever by a Cal player but is now after beaten by both his own victory and Hagy tying for eighth in 2013. All three finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Stanford Regional with Hagy third, Kim tied for fourth and Homa tied for 10th, giving Cal three top-10 players at an NCAA Regional for the first time in school history and making Homa the first player ever at Cal to finish in the top 10 in the same season at both the NCAA Championship and NCAA Regional with Hagy becoming the second in 2013. Hagy (T5th) and Stalter (T9th) also had top-10 showings at the Pac-12 Championship.
In between the last two seasons, Cal players made arguably the strongest showing ever by a school at the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colo., during August of 2012 when four of the school’s national-best five qualifiers reached the Round of 64. In addition to Weaver’s runner-up finish, Hagy reached the semifinals, Homa the Round of 32 and Kim the Round of 64. Walker Huddy was also a participant in the stroke-play portion of the event.
Cal tied for 19th at the 2011 NCAA Championship to conclude a strong campaign in 2010-11, reaching as high as No. 13 in the national polls and equaling a then-school record with three regular-season tournament wins (The Prestige at PGA WEST, Alister MacKenzie Invitational, John A. Burns Intercollegiate) among its 14 events. All told, Cal had eight top-five finishes in 2010-11, also taking third at the NCAA Arizona Regional, Windon Memorial Classic and Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, placing fifth at the Pac-10 Championship and tying for fifth at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational. Weaver was named a PING Division I All-American after posting an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championship that at the time was the highest ever by a Cal player and is still tied for second. Stephen Hale, Homa and Eric Mina all picked up second-team All-Pac-10 selections, while Ben An was an honorable mention choice. Homa was the team’s lone individual medalist, sharing the title at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate before falling in a playoff. An had a stretch of top-notch golf to lead the Bears during back-to-back team victories when he placed third at The Prestige at PGA WEST before tying for second at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational.
The amateur play during the summer of 2010 by members of the 2010-11 team was noteworthy as a school-record six Bears – An, Jamie Coré, Homa, John Murphy, Ben Mangum and Mina – qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay in August. No other school in the country had as many qualifiers. An, an incoming freshman who had become the event’s youngest winner ever at the age of 17 in 2009 at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., reached the 2010 semifinals while attempting to defend his title. Homa made the quarterfinals before falling to eventual collegiate teammate An.
The 2010 calendar year was a banner 12 months for Desimone that was capped off when he was one of seven members of the 2010 class inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame during the Reception and Awards Banquet at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas on December 6.
After winning its lone national title in 2004, Cal missed the NCAA Championship for five consecutive seasons (2005-09) before returning to its spot among the nation’s elite teams with a 23rd-place finish at the 2010 NCAA Championship. Cal qualified by tying for third place at the NCAA San Diego Regional. The Bears also posted three regular-season victories to tie a then-school record, winning the Spartan Golf Classic, Alister MacKenzie Invitational and Arizona Intercollegiate. Several individuals had great accomplishments during the season, highlighted by the Pac-10 individual medalist honors won by Mina with the event hosted by Arizona State as one of only three Cal golfers to ever capture the event, with current PGA TOUR pro Charlie Wi the first in 1995 in an event hosted by Washington State and Homa the third when UCLA hosted the tournament in 2013. Mina, who earned PING Division I All-American honors, also won at the Spartan Golf Classic while Hale captured the Alister MacKenzie Invitational. Weaver became the first Cal player to finish in the top 10 at both the Pac-10 Championship and NCAA Regionals in the same season, tying for sixth and taking eighth, respectively.
Prior to its current run, the team’s previous appearance at the NCAA Championship came at the end of the magical 2003-04 campaign when Desimone orchestrated one of the greatest stories in the history of college golf as Cal came from eight strokes behind UCLA on the final day of competition in the NCAA Championship at The Homestead in Virginia to win the national title by six strokes over the Bruins. It was the culmination of a season in which the Bears had to overcome several injuries but were able to play their best golf when it counted the most. As a result of his team’s impressive accomplishment, Desimone was named Golfweek’s Collegiate Coach of the Year, and was honored as 2004 Grand Master of the Year by the Northern California Golf Association.
When Desimone came aboard as head coach at Cal in the fall of 1979 he was taking over a program which had lost its varsity status following the previous season. But Desimone was intent on not only returning the program to varsity status but taking it to a higher level. Among the first steps was the formation of the Cal Golf Committee in 1980, the primary support group for the men’s golf team, which helped return the program to varsity status in 1982. Soon after, Desimone began crafting Cal into the nationally elite program it has become today.
By 1986-87, Cal was ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation for the first time in the history of the program. One outstanding performance that season was a dramatic comeback at San Diego State’s Frank Scott Memorial Tournament. Trailing fourth-ranked Fresno State by 17 shots going into the final round, the Bears rallied to win their first major championship in 17 years. Cal’s success that season helped Desimone win Pac-10 Conference Co-Coach of the Year honors for the first time.
During an outstanding 1989-90 campaign, Desimone brought the Bears’ program to a then-unprecedented level. The team earned its first NCAA postseason berth in 26 seasons by qualifying for an NCAA Regional. Cal competed in the 1964 NCAA Championship, but didn’t actually earn its first berth until 1990 at New Mexico State, two years after the NCAA switched to a selection/qualifying format. Cal played in 13 tournaments that year, placing among the top 10 in all but two, including a then-regular-season school-record-tying three team titles and a tie for third place at the Pac-10 Championship. In addition, the Bears were ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation throughout the season. Ben Furth, the school’s first All-American in men’s golf and still the only men's golfer in the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, was a major contributor to the Bears’ success.
The following season came to a disappointing conclusion for Desimone and the Bears. A career-ending back injury to Furth brought to an end the hope that 1990-91 would surpass Cal’s great season the preceding year. Off the course, however, another important step in the rebuilding of the program was undertaken. With the generous support of the Cal Golf Committee, a minimal amount of financial aid was offered to incoming student-athletes for the first time in 15 years. This was a critical step because it finally demonstrated the Bears were committed to competing nationally in all respects and gave Desimone a new and critical tool in recruiting.
The 1994-95 season was historic as the Bears qualified for their first ever NCAA Championship and posted the best finish in school history at the time and still the fourth-best ever by taking sixth in the event hosted by Ohio State in Columbus. Cal was appearing at the NCAA Championship for the first time since 1964 when there was no selection/qualifying format. The Bears were previously selected to play in their third NCAA Regional berth in the past six years and came up a sixth-place showing at an NCAA Regional hosted by New Mexico in Albuquerque after a second-place finish to Arizona State at the Pac-10 Championship. Wi led the way by earning first-team All-American honors and was Cal’s first Pac-10 individual champion, while Garrett Larson picked up honorable mention All-American recognition.
Cal returned to the NCAA Championship for three consecutive years from 1998-2000, finishing 15th at New Mexico, 16th at Minnesota and 17th at Auburn, respectively. The Bears were tied for fourth at the NCAA Tempe Regional, fourth at the NCAA Tucson Regional and tied for 10th at the NCAA Madera Regional during those three seasons, after finishing fourth, fifth and third, respectively, at the Pac-10 Championship.
The 1997-98 team led by All-American Dan Arroyo used the best final round of the day at the NCAA Tempe Regional to advance to the NCAA Championship and then was the final team to make the cut at the national event before eventually settling for its 15th place finish.
Arroyo was back again in 1998-99 and led a now-veteran group that also included 2001 U.S. Amateur runner-up Robert Hamilton to its 16th place national finish. The Bears missed a playoff at the NCAA’s to have an opportunity to make the cut by a single shot.
The 1999-2000 squad featured All-American Han Lee and current associate head coach Walter Chun. The Bears needed a dramatic finish at the 2000 NCAA Regional at Riverbend Golf Club in Madera when Chun birdied his last hole of the tournament to force a three-team playoff for the final spot to advance to the NCAA Championship. The Bears would eventually win the playoff on the third hole, beating Stanford and Idaho. At the NCAA’s, Cal would miss making the cut by a single shot while Hamilton would move on in the championship as an individual.
All told, Desimone has directed Cal to the NCAA Championship nine (1995, ’98, ’99, 2000, ’04, ’10, ’11, ’12, ‘13) of the 12 times the Bears have gone in school history, including a current school-record stretch of four in a row. The Bears have played in all 18 of their NCAA Regionals (1990, ’93, ’95, ’97, ’98, ’99, 2000, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13) under Desimone with a current run of seven straight that is one shy of the school-record eight in a row the Bears put together from 1997-2004. Desimone has a total of 56 stroke-play victories in his Cal career.
Desimone has coached 12 All-Americans (Arroyo, Furth, Hagy, Homa, Jeff Hood, Kim, Larson, Lee, Mina, Peter Tomasulo, Weaver, Wi) who have earned 13 All-American honors, with Tomasulo being named twice. Tomasulo also played in the Palmer Cup in 2003 that Kim, Stalter and Weaver have been selected for in 2013.
Wi is in his eighth season on the PGA TOUR in 2013 and has finished second five times, most recently at the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Wi and James Hahn, who played at Cal in 2000-01, both played in the 2012 U.S. Open. Hahn finished fifth on the final Web.com Tour money list in 2012 to earn his PGA TOUR card for the first time in 2013 and promptly tied for fourth in the second tournament of the season at the Humana Challenge. Tomasulo has also played on the PGA TOUR, while An, Robert Hamilton, Jesse Ruda and Michael Wilson have competed in PGA TOUR events. Several others have played professionally on other tours, with George Gandranata, Hale, Jeff Hamm, Lee, Mina and Murphy currently active in the professional ranks.
The Bears have also had success in the classroom during Desimone’s tenure with 10 All-America Scholars (Bill Albers, Dan Coyle, Chun, Scott Carlyle, Furth, Gandranata, Hale, Murphy, Tomasulo, Michael Wilson) that have combined to earn the award 16 times, with repeat selections accomplished by Chun, Carlyle, Furth, Hale, Tomasulo and Wilson. Carlyle was also selected a first-team Academic All-American in 2004, while Hagy was a third-team Capital One Academic All-America® pick for the Division I men’s at large team as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
In addition to his duties as Cal’s head coach, Desimone was the former Manager of the University of California Golf Club (1979-2010), a 130-member Associate Club of the Northern California Golf Association, as well as a former member of the PING Advisory Committee for college golf. He also served two stints on the NCAA Pacific Region Selection Committee for the NCAA Western Regional (1991-93, 2002-04) and was on the campus-wide NCAA Self-Certification Committee in the mid-1990’s.
Desimone played for the Bears’ men’s basketball team as an undergraduate and then served in the United States military before returning to Cal to complete a double major in history and physical education, while also earning his master’s degree in physical education. After graduating from Cal, Desimone left Berkeley to become the Director of Athletics at the College Preparatory School in Oakland where he remained until 1988. Desimone returned to Cal in the fall of 1979 as the men’s golf head coach, and shared responsibilities with both jobs until 1988, when he joined Cal on a full-time basis.
Desimone lives in Orinda with his wife, Linda. The couple has two children. Kim graduated in 2006 from Cal Poly and Robert is a 2008 graduate of Northern Michigan.