SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Top-seeded and No. 4 nationally ranked Cal (305, +17) finished a cold, wet and windy first round of the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional held Thursday at the par-72, 7,151-yard Rich Harvest Farms in seventh place. The Golden Bears are three shots out of a coveted top five spot that would extend their school-record string of NCAA Championship appearances to five.
“We’re all going to have to play better if we’re going to get to Prairie Dunes,” head coach Steve Desimone said referring to the location of the 2014 NCAA Championship scheduled for May 23-28. “This is it; it’s make the top five or go home. We’re fortunate that we are only three shots out of fifth place. Right now that’s the magic number. We haven’t given up on the idea of winning this thing, but we’re going to have to play a whole lot better than we did today.”
“It feels good that we still have 36 holes left,” Desimone added. “It’s not the first time in NCAA Regional competition that we haven’t got off to a good start. We’ve talked about it and the guys know what they have to do. We’ve been here before. It’s a confident bunch and I still like our chances.”
UAB (292, +4), Illinois (293, +5), Clemson (299, +11), Kent State (299, +11), Jacksonville State (302, +14) and USC (302, +14) are the six teams ahead of Cal after the first 18 holes of the 54-hole event hosted by Northern Illinois.
Brandon Hagy led Cal with a one-over par 73 that has him tied for sixth and four shots behind the three-under par 69 posted by first-round leader Brian Campbell of Illinois. Hagy’s round was sparked by shooting four-under par over the first eight holes of his back nine with four birdies during the stretch.
“It was tough this morning especially with the cold, wind and rain,” Hagy said. ”For the most part I was able to hang in there in the beginning and then started to play well on the back nine to get a solid round in. We’re only three out of fifth as a team so we can make up some ground in the next couple of days.”
Joël Stalter is tied for 11th one stroke behind Hagy after his opening round two-over par 74. He matched Hagy’s four birdies but had a key triple bogey on the par-three fifth hole that served to erase three of those strokes.
“It was tough today and making a triple is obviously not a good thing to have on the scoreboard,” Stalter said. “But I hung tough and I’m looking forward to a better day with my team both tomorrow and Saturday.”
“Brandon and Joël played really well especially on the back nine to keep us in it,” Desimone said.
Shotaro Ban is tied for 33rd after an opening-round six-over par 78, while Michael Weaver (80, +8) is tied for 47th and Keelan Kilpatrick tied for 62nd (82, +10).
Cal moved up seven spots as a team from its lowest point of the day when the Bears were last in the 14-team field midway through the first round.
Second-round action at the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional resumes Friday at 8 a.m. CT/6 a.m. PT. Pairings and tee times for the second round are expected to be announced later Thursday. Third and final round of action is scheduled for Saturday (7:30 a.m. CT/5:30 a.m. PT).
NCAA SUGAR GROVE REGIONAL (HOSTED BY NORTHERN ILLINOIS)
SUGAR GROVE, IL
RICH HARVEST FARMS (PAR-72, 7,151 YARDS)
TEAM LEADERBOARD (after 1 of 3 days, 1 of 3 rounds, 18 of 54 holes)
1. UAB (292, +4)
2. Illinois (293, +5)
T3. Clemson (299, +11)
T3. Kent State (299, +11)
T5. Jacksonville State (302, +14)
T5. USC (302, +14)
7. Cal (305, +17)
8. UNLV (308, +20)
9. Purdue (309, +21)
T10. Mississippi State (315, +27)
T10. Cleveland State (315, +27)
12. New Mexico State (317, +29)
13. Cal State Fullerton (319, +31)
14. Saint Peter’s (338, +50)
PLAYER LEADERBOARD – INDIVIDUAL LEADER (after 1 of 3 days, 1 of 3 rounds, 18 of 54 holes)
1. Brian Campbell (Illinois) 69 (-3)
PLAYER LEADERBOARD – CAL INDIVIDUALS (after 1 of 3 days/1 of 3 rounds/18 of 54 holes)
T6. Brandon Hagy 73 (+1)
T11. Joël Stalter 74 (+2)
T33. Shotaro Ban 78 (+6)
T47. Michael Weaver 80 (+8)
T62. Keelan Kilpatrick 82 (+10)
► Cal came into the 2014 NCAA Sugar Grove Regional as the top seed and a two-time defending NCAA Regional champion (2012 NCAA Stanford Regional, 2013 NCAA Pullman Regional) ranked No. 4 nationally by Golfstat and Golf World/Nike Golf, as well as No. 6 according to the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.
► Cal is participating in its school-record-tying eighth straight NCAA Regional and looking to extend a school-record string of NCAA Championship appearances to five.
► Cal’s trip to the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional marks the furthest the team has traveled in 19 career NCAA Regional appearances. The only other time the Bears have played an NCAA Regional in the Central time zone was in 2009 at Austin, Texas. Each of the other 17 NCAA Regionals played by Cal have been in either the Pacific or Mountain time zone.
► Cal won six of its first 12 events in 2013-14 heading into the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional and 24 of its last 38 stroke-play tournaments overall dating back to the beginning of the 2011-12 season. The Bears have finished in the top five in 37 of those 38 events as well as another four match-play events during the period for 41 top-five showings in their last 42 tournaments overall.
► Another Cal victory this season would give the Bears seven wins in 2013-14 and the second-most in school history behind the school-record 12 stroke-play events won by the 2012-13 squad.
► Hagy picked up yet another award on Thursday when he was named to the 2013-14 Capital One Academic All-District® 8 men’s at large team for the second consecutive season.
► Hagy caught fire on the back nine with four birdies over his first eight holes before he gave two of the strokes back with a double bogey on the par-four 18th. Hagy birdied both par-fives on the back nine (11, 17) as well as two par-fours (12, 14). On the front nine, he made three bogeys on the par-five second, and par-four fourth and sixth holes without a birdie.
► Stalter matched Hagy’s four birdies for the round, also making birdie on both of the par-five holes on the back nine (11, 17) while picking up his other two on the second and sixth holes, both of which Hagy bogeyed. Stalter lost three of those strokes on a single hole with a triple bogey on the par-three fifth and dropped another three with bogeys on the par-four eighth, 10th and 18th.
► Ban came up with his lone birdie on the 10th hole, while his seven bogeys came on the fifth, eighth, par-four ninth, 11th, 12th, par-four 15th and 18th holes.
► Weaver’s lone birdie came on the ninth hole but followed back-to-back double bogeys on the par-five seventh and par-four eighth. The first three of his five bogeys came in succession with a pair on par-three holes (3, 5) sandwiching another on the par-four fourth. He also bogeyed the par-three 13th and par-four 18th.
► Kilpatrick bogeyed the par-four first hole and then played a four-hole stretch in five-over par with three bogeys (3, 4, 5) and a double bogey (6). He played 10 holes in the middle of his round (7-16) in a combined one-over par with nine pars and one bogey on the 11th before closing his round with a double bogey on 17 and a bogey on 18.