TUCSON, Ariz. – Cal has jumped out to a 13-stroke lead after firing a 20-under par round of 268 as a team in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament on Friday. Host Arizona (281, -7) and Oklahoma State (282, -6) are second and third after 18 holes at the par-72, 7,200-yard Catalina Course at the Omni Tucson National Resort.
Brandon Hagy (64, -8) leads teammate and second-place Michael Weaver (67, -5) by three strokes at the end of the first round, while Joël Stalter (68, -4) is a shot behind Weaver tied for third with four others. Keelan Kilpatrick (69, -3) is tied for eighth and James Yoon (70, -2) tied for 12th to round out the Bears. Shotaro Ban (76, +4) is playing as an individual and tied for 63rd.
“I played solid all the way around,” Hagy said about a round that tied for his lowest of the year and second-lowest of his career. “I hit a lot of good wedge shots and putted great from there.”
The Golden Bears are playing for the first time since finishing eighth at the prestigious Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters last Friday-Sunday, ending a string of 37 consecutive top-five finishes dating back to the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign. Cal won 23 of 33 stroke-play events during that stretch with the other four events top-five finishes in match play.
“What a difference a week makes,” head coach Steve Desimone said. “A week ago today we played our worst round in a decade, especially on the front nine. Today, we got started beautifully and we just kept making putts, hitting good shots and playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played. I don’t know if we could have played any better.”
The 54-hole NIT continues with 18 holes scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday beginning at 8 a.m. PDT/MST. Yoon will be the first of five Cal players off the first tee Saturday at 9:30 a.m. PDT/MST. Pairings and specific tee times for the final round Sunday will be announced following second-round action.
NATIONAL INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT (HOSTED BY ARIZONA) TUCSON, ARIZ. OMNI TUCSON NATIONAL RESORT – CATALINA COURSE (PAR-72, 7,200 YARDS)
TEAM LEADER BOARD (after 1 of 3 days/1 of 3 rounds/18 of 54 holes) 1. Cal (268, -20) 2. Arizona (281, -7) 3. Oklahoma State (282, -6) T4. UNLV (284, -4) T4. San Diego State (284, -4) T6. Texas A&M (287, -1) T6. Marquette (287, -1) 8. New Mexico (288, E) T9. San Diego (290, -2) T9. SMU (290, -2) 11. UTEP (298, +10) 12. TCU (299, +11) 13. New Mexico State (301, +13) 14. Wyoming (304, +16)
PLAYER LEADER BOARD – INDIVIDUAL LEADER (after 1 of 3 days/1 of 3 rounds/18 of 54 holes) 1. Brandon Hagy (Cal) 64 (-8)
NOTES ► Cal is looking for its sixth win in its first nine events in 2013-14 and 24th over its last 35 stroke-play events overall since the beginning of the 2011-12 season.
► Cal is playing at the National Invitational Tournament for the first time since 2010 when the Golden Bears finished fifth, while Michael Weaver is the lone Cal player to have previously participated in the event tying for 24th as a true freshman that season.
► Brandon Hagy’s round of 64 equaled his lowest of the season and tied for the second-lowest of his career behind only a 62 he fired at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational he won in the fall of 2012. Hagy had a round-high nine birdies and one bogey. He birdied all four of the courses’ par-fives (2, 8, 10, 15) as well as five par-fours (5, 6, 11, 14, 16). His bogey came on the par-four 13th.
► Weaver had seven birdies (6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15) including Cal’s lone birdie of the round on a par-three hole (12), as well as two bogeys both on par-fours (5, 13).
► Joël Stalter’s up-and-down round included eight birdies (2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14, 18) and four bogeys (5, 7, 12, 15).
► Keelan Kilpatrick twice had back-to-back birdies among his five overall (2, 3, 9, 10, 11) along with two bogeys (7, 15). ► James Yoon started with two consecutive birdies on the first two holes and added three others (6, 8, 10) for a total of five, while registering three bogeys (7, 9, 18) in his second tournament of the season.
► Playing as an individual Shotaro Ban started with a double bogey on the first hole and dropped to four-over par after back-to-back bogeys on six and seven before playing his final 11 holes in even par with birdies on eight and 15, and bogeys on 12 and 13.
ADDITIONAL QUOTES ► Head Coach Steve Desimone “We did a lot of things right. This was probably our best putting round since the fall. We put ourselves in good positions and we were able to finish.”
“We had an excellent practice round yesterday, and it’s no coincidence we played as well as we did today. All in all, we really just continued our momentum from the last two and a half rounds last week at Southern Highlands.”
“The conditions were great. The wind kicked up a little bit to 10-15 miles per hour, but really it was basically 5-10 and it was nice and warm. You couldn’t really ask for much better conditions to play golf in and we took advantage of them.”
“Brandon Hagy has been playing great since the first nine holes at Southern Highlands. He had a dominating practice round yesterday and just kept right on going today. He hit it well, made some short putts for par and obviously had an awful lot of birdies. He played like one of the top players in the country today, which is pretty much where he’s been all year.”
“Let’s not forget we have 36 holes to go, and we have a great Oklahoma State team that we’ve been jockeying with for position to be second or third in the country all year behind us. We’ve split with them so far this year. We beat them in the fall, they beat us last week. We’ve got a nice lead but there are 36 holes to go and I expect it to be a real shootout before we’re done. I like our position. I like our chances, but we’ve got to keep it going.”
► Brandon Hagy “It was a nice bounce-back round for the team and pretty impressive play. We need to continue that into tomorrow.”
► Joël Stalter “Today was a great round for the team. It was nice to bounce back after Vegas, and it’s nice to see some red scores on the leaderboard. Hopefully we can keep this going for the next two days.”
► Keelan Kilpatrick “We are really happy with our performance today. After last week, we really wanted to put some low numbers on the board just to show everyone we’re not going away. It’s always a good day when you drop a 70, so a couple more days like today and we’ll be back in the winners’ circle.”
“I’m feeling very comfortable with my game right now. I had a couple of blemishes in the middle of the back nine but apart from that it was a successful day all around.”
► James Yoon “The team played great with a lot of birdies and a nice bounce back from last week. I hope we can keep the momentum going for the next two rounds.”