Hutchinson, Kan. Cal (279-289-282 850, +10) briefly moved into a top eight spot Monday morning during its third and final round of stroke play at the NCAA Championship before a difficult finish over the final three holes left the Golden Bears tied for 11th at the end of 54 holes of stroke play. Cal finished five strokes out of a coveted top eight spot that would have continued its season and put the Bears in match play for a third consecutive campaign.
“Disappointed would be an understatement,” head coach Steve Desimone said following the round. “I think devastated would be more like it. I hurt when they hurt, like a parent.”
The illustrious collegiate careers of four Cal seniors Brandon Hagy, Pace Johnson, JoëlStalter and Michael Weaver also came to an end Monday at the par-70, 6,941-yard Prairie Dunes Country Club. Hagy and Weaver became the second and third golfers in Cal history to play four times in the NCAA Championship.
“Look at the overall picture of what these guys have accomplished,” Desimone said. “They made five straight NCAA Championships, were the best team in the history of college golf last year, and a team that a lot of people thought would fall off the map this year once Michael Kim turned professional in December yet they played great and won three times in the spring then came so close to getting back into match play.”
Since the arrival of fifth-year seniors Hagy and Weaver for the 2009-10 season, highlights by the Bears include five NCAA Championship appearances with a pair of semifinal finishes, victories in 30 of 68 stroke-play events, a single-season NCAA record in 2012-13 with 12 stroke-play wins, and both the first two NCAA Regional and Pac-12 titles in school history.
“It’s been incredible,” Hagy said. “We’ve won God knows how many tournaments. It’s been an incredible ride, just kind of seeing the rise of the program since I’ve been here. It has been special just to be a part of it. I’ve made great friends and had a lot of incredible highs.”
“It is eye-opening that we have won over 40 percent of our tournaments the last five seasons,” Weave said. “It speaks to how strong our team has been the last few years. I’m just glad that I was a part of it and able to contribute to that success. We definitely left our mark and hopefully it can just be the start of more great teams down the road at Cal.”
“If I look back at four years ago and you told me everything that has happened would have happened I would have never believed it,” Stalter said. “I have absolutely no regrets. It’s been the best experience of my life.”
Stanford’s Cameron Wilson (71-63-70 204, -6) captured the individual medalist title to give Bay Area schools and the Pac-12 two consecutive national titles with Cal’s Max Homa a winner in 2013. Wilson made a birdie on the third playoff hole (No. 17) to defeat Georgia Tech’s Ollie Schniderjans.
Stanford (281-267-279 827, -13) also followed Cal’s lead at the end of stroke play from a year ago with the other teams to advance to match play Alabama (274-278-284 836, -4), LSU (279-278-279 836, -4), Oklahoma State (277-279-284 840, E), Georgia Tech (277-282-282 841, +1), UCLA (279-284-281 844, +4), SMU (275-285-285 845, +5) and Illinois (285-280-280 845, +5).
Cal’s high water mark of its third round that began with a shotgun start Sunday afternoon and was completed Monday morning came early Monday when the Bears moved to five-under par for the round and three-over for the tournament with all five players in the lineup through both 10 and 11 holes.
The situation still looked bright for the Bears at four-under for the round and four-over for the tournament through the first 15 holes of their round before its four scoring players played combined to play their final three holes in six-over par with Hagy and Weaver both playing their final two holes in three-over par.
Hagy made a triple bogey on the par-five 17th. He lost his original tee shot in knee-high rough left of the fairway and then hit his provisional drive in the rough to the right of the fairway. Hagy found his second drive but advanced the ball only a few feet on his first attempt to get out of the rough. He then decided to chip back onto the fairway on his fifth shot before hitting a 230-yard four-iron to within 25 feet and two-putting for the triple.
“I needed to hit a good shot and didn’t,” Hagy said. “To have a poor swing at the end was frustrating. It was tough because I was grinding the whole day and had gotten it to two-under. I wasn’t playing great but I was hanging in there.”
Weaver, who started his round on the par-four 18th hole, was two-under through his first 16 holes before a bogey on the par-four 16th and a double bogey on 17.
“The six shots that Brandon and I gave up in our last two holes happened in a hurry,” Weaver said. “When you look back you think about whether there was anything you would have done differently but sometimes that’s just the way it is in golf.”
Stalter (69-73-67 209, -1) ended up tied for 19th for his top career NCAA Championship finish as he had both Cal’s best round of the day and the top NCAA round and 54-hole score of his career. Stalter had seven birdies during his final round on the par-four third, par-three fourth, par-five seventh, par-three 10th, par-four 13th, par-three 15th and par-five 17th holes. His four bogeys came on the first, sixth, eighth and 16th holes all par-fours.
Hagy (68-72-72 212, +2) finished tied for 42nd. He had a single highlight during each day of his final round, making an eagle on the seventh hole shortly before play was halted due to inclement weather Sunday evening and chipping in for a birdie on the 10th early Monday. He also had a single bogey each day on the fourth hole Sunday and the par-four 14th Monday in addition to his triple bogey on his second to last hole.
Weaver (72-71-71 214, +4) was tied for 55th on the final individual leaderboard. He birdied three of his final four holes before play was halted Sunday on the third, fourth and sixth, and then picked up another birdie on his second hole Monday on the eighth to get to three-under for the round. Weaver’s lone bogey through his first 12 holes came on the par-three second but he played his final six holes in four-over with a bogey on the par-four 12th before the double another the bogey on 16 and double on 17.
Ban (70-74-75 219, +9) tied for 105th as a sophomore playing in the NCAA Championship for the first time in his career. His even-par opening round was a counter for the team score before his final two rounds were non-counters. Most of Ban’s problems in his final round came Sunday when he played his first seven holes in six-over with a double bogey on the par-four 18th to start his round followed by a birdie on three, quadruple bogey on the par-four fifth and a bogey on six. He birdied two of his first three holes Monday on the seventh and par-four ninth, returned both strokes with back-to-back bogeys on the par-four 11th and 12th but finished in the red for the day when he completed his round with a birdie on the 17th hole.
Johnson (81-73-72 226, +16) tied for 131st but did rebound from an 11-over par opening round to make his final two rounds both count towards the team score, including a final-round 72 that equaled the best NCAA Championship round of his career. He played the final 11 holes of his round on Monday in one-under par after being three-over for his first seven holes Sunday. Johnson, who started his final round on the 17th hole, had birdies on the 18th, sixth, seventh and 12th holes all par-fours other than the par-five seventh. His bogeys came on the first, fifth, 10th and 11th holes, while he had a double bogey on the fifth.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP (HOSTED BY WICHITA STATE) HUTCHINSON, KS PRAIRIE DUNES COUNTRY CLUB (PAR-70, 6,941 YARDS) FINAL STROKE-PLAY TEAM LEADERBOARD (after 3 of 3 stroke-play rounds, 54 of 54 stroke-play holes) 1. Stanford (281-267-279 827, -13) T2. Alabama (274-278-284 836, -4) T2. LSU (279-278-279 836, -4) 4. Oklahoma State (277-279-284 840, E) 5. Georgia Tech (277-282-282 841, +1) 6. UCLA (279-284-281 844, +4) T7. SMU (275-285-285 845, +5) T7. Illinois (285-280-280 845, +5) 9. South Carolina (272-292-282 846, +6) 10. Houston (284-285-279 848, +8) T11. Cal (279-289-282 850, +10) T11. Georgia (286-287-277 850, +10) 13. Texas (289-278-284 851, +11) 14. Oregon (284-297-271 852, +12) 15. Washington (279-287-287 853, +13) T16. Vanderbilt (281-285-288 854, +14) T16. Oklahoma (273-287-294 854, +14) T18. Kentucky (288-286-283 857, +17) T18. Arkansas (292-286-279 857, +17) 20. Missouri (283-289-287 859, +19) 21. UAB (282-285-295 862, +22) 22. Georgia State (285-290-288 863, +23) 23. Auburn (274-292-300 866, +26) 24. Florida State (286-301-283 870, +30) 25. Iowa State (278-299-294 871, +31) 26. Kennesaw State (294-294-284 872, +32) 27. Purdue (286-289-298 873, +33) 28. Virginia Tech (294-301-281 876, +36) 29. Texas A&M (296-288-297 881, +41) 30. USC (296-298-295 889, +49) *Top eight teams advance to match-play quarterfinals FINAL STROKE-PLAY PLAYER LEADERBOARD INDIVIDUAL MEDALIST (after 3 of 3 stroke-play rounds, 54 of 54 stroke-play holes) T1. Cameron Wilson Stanford (71-63-70 204, -6) T1. Ollie Schniederjans Georgia Tech (71-65-68 204, -6) *Wilson won with birdie on third playoff hole
FINAL STROKE-PLAY PLAYER LEADERBOARD CAL INDIVIDUALS (after 3 of 3 stroke-play rounds, 54 of 54 stroke-play holes) T19. Joël Stalter (69-73-67 209, -1) T42. Brandon Hagy (68-72-72 212, +2) T55. Michael Weaver (72-71-71 214, +4) T105. Shotaro Ban (70-74-75 219, +9) T131. Pace Johnson (81-73-72 226, +16)