SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Top-seeded and No. 4 nationally ranked Cal (305-288-303 – 896, +32) extended its school record string of appearances at the NCAA Championship to five by finishing tied for fourth at the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional that concluded Saturday at the par-72, 7,151-yard Rich Harvest Farms.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” head coach Steve Desimone said. “I think survive is the right word. This could have ended in a really tough way.”
Team champion Illinois (293-292-295 – 880, +16), UAB (292-292-298 – 882, +18), Purdue (309-288-297 – 894, +30) and USC (302-292-302 – 896, +32) were the other teams from the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional to advance to the 30-team NCAA Championship field that will play for a national title May 23-28 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas.
The Golden Bears came up big on the final two holes with its four scoring players registering a combined three-under par on the 17th and 18th holes after spending most of the round in a four-way battle along with Purdue, USC and eventual sixth-place finisher Clemson (299-292-307 – 898, +34) for the final advancing spots. USC’s four scorers also combined for a three-under tally on the final two holes, while Clemson played the stretch in three-over par.
Four of Cal’s five players birdied the par-five 17th hole with three of the birdies coming in up-and-down fashion before coming up with four pars and a bogey on a par-four 18th hole that ranked as the second-toughest hole of the course over the course of the tournament and one that the Bears had played in a combined 11-over par during the first two rounds.
“The guys clutched up,” Desimone said. “Not a single one of our up-and-down birdies were routine. It was absolutely clutch.”
Brandon Hagy (73-72-74 – 219, +3) led Cal’s efforts was a fifth-place finish that was the third top-five NCAA Regional finish of his career. He was one of three Cal players to come through with both a birdie on 17 and a par on 18. Hagy also had birdies on two of the course’s other three par-five holes (2, 11).
“Wow that was very tight coming down the stretch,” Hagy said. “I’m really proud of how the guys hung in there with the pressure, especially on the last few holes. We made a lot of clutch shots.”
Joël Stalter (74-71-77 – 222, +6) dropped nine spots to finish tied for 11th with a round that included six bogeys but came up big with his lone birdie of the round on the 17th hole and then finished off his round with a par on 18.
“It was a really tough day, but I’m so proud of how clutch the team was down the stretch,” Stalter said. “Now it’s time to enjoy graduation and get ready for Kansas.”
Shotaro Ban (78-73-74 – 225, +9) matched the finish by Hagy and Stalter with a birdie on 17 and a par on 18. He had earlier birdies on the second and par-four ninth holes. He finished tied for 20th in his first NCAA Regional, five spots better than where he started the round.
Michael Weaver (80-72-78 – 230, +14) and Keelan Kilpatrick (82-82-78 – 242, +26) shared the team’s final scoring spot on Saturday. Weaver ended up tied for 34th overall, while Kilpatrick was tied for 63rd. Kilpatrick made par on each of the final two holes, while Weaver birdied 17 and bogeyed 18.
Brian Campbell of Illinois (69-70-72 – 211, -5) won individual medalist honors, finishing four strokes better than USC’s Anthony Paolucci (73-73-69 – 215, -1) as the only two players under par.
Cal’s journey to the NCAA Championship was difficult as the Bears were seventh after Thursday’s first round of the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional after being last at one point midway through the opening round. Weather conditions over the first two rounds of the event Thursday and Saturday included rain, wind, cold and even snow that caused a two and a half hour delay postponing the start of Friday’s action by two and a half hours.
NCAA SUGAR GROVE REGIONAL (HOSTED BY NORTHERN ILLINOIS) SUGAR GROVE, IL RICH HARVEST FARMS (PAR-72, 7,151 YARDS) FINAL TEAM LEADERBOARD (after 3 of 3 days, 3 of 3 rounds, 54 of 54 holes) 1. Illinois (293-292-295 – 880, +16) 2. UAB (292-292-298 – 882, +18) 3. Purdue (309-288-297 – 894, +30) T4. USC (302-292-302 – 896, +32) T4. Cal (305-288-303 – 896, +32) 6. Clemson (299-292-307 – 898, +34) 7. Kent State (299-309-292 – 900, +36) 8. Jacksonville State (302-306-299 – 907, +43) 9. UNLV (308-309-295 – 912, +48) 10. Cleveland State (315-298-307 – 920, +56) 11. Cal State Fullerton (319-309-309 – 937, +73) 12. Mississippi State (315-314-310 – 939, +75) 13. New Mexico State (317-315-313 – 945, +81) 14. Saint Peter’s (338-324-328 – 990, +126) FINAL PLAYER LEADERBOARD – INDIVIDUAL MEDALIST (after 3 of 3 days, 3 of 3 rounds, 54 of 54 holes) 1. Brian Campbell – Illinois (69-70-72 – 211, -5)
FINAL PLAYER LEADERBOARD – CAL INDIVIDUALS (after 3 of 3 days/3 of 3 rounds/54 of 54 holes) 5. Brandon Hagy (73-72-74 – 219, +3) T11. Joël Stalter (74-71-77 – 222, +6) T20. Shotaro Ban (78-73-74 – 225, +9) T34. Michael Weaver (80-72-78 – 230, +14) 63. Keelan Kilpatrick (82-82-78 – 242, +26) NOTES ► Cal extended its school-record string of NCAA Championship appearances to five while participating in its school-record-tying eighth straight NCAA Regional. ► Cal came into the 2014 NCAA Sugar Grove Regional as the top seed, a two-time defending NCAA Regional champion (2012 NCAA Stanford Regional, 2013 NCAA Pullman Regional), and ranked No. 4 nationally by Golfstat and Golf World/Nike Golf as well as No. 6 according to the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. ► Cal’s trip to the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional marked the furthest the Bears have traveled in 19 career NCAA Regional appearances. The only other time the Bears 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 has won six of its first 13 events in 2013-14 and 24 of its last 39 stroke-play tournaments overall dating back to the beginning of the 2011-12 season. The Bears have finished in the top five in 38 of those 39 events as well as another four match-play events during the period for 42 top-five showings in their last 43 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’s fifth-place finish was the third career top-five showing of his career at an NCAA Regional. He finished third at the 2012 NCAA Stanford Regional and was also fifth at the 2013 NCAA Pullman Regional. ► Hagy birdied three of the course’s par-five holes on Saturday (2, 11, 17), while his three bogeys came on the par-four fourth and 12th holes, as well as the par-three 16th. ► Stalter’s lone birdie came down the stretch on the 17th hole, while his six bogeys were evenly split between par-fours (1, 9, 14) and par-threes (3, 5, 16). ► Ban’s three birdies came on the second, ninth and 17th holes. He bogeyed the fourth, fifth, 12th, par-three 13th and par-four 15th. ► Kilpatrick made both of his birdies in back-to-back fashion on the par-four sixth and par-five seventh holes. His six bogeys came on the second, fourth, fifth, ninth, par-four 10th and 14th holes, while he had a double bogey on the 16th. ► Weaver’s up and down round included four birdies (2, 4, 11, 17), eight bogeys (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 18) including a stretch of six in a row at one point, and one double bogey (16).