SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Top-seeded and No. 4 nationally ranked Cal (305-288 – 593, +17) equaled the best round of the day at the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional on Friday to move up three spots into fourth place at the event being hosted by Northern Illinois at the par-72, 7,151-yard Rich Harvest Farms.
The top five teams at each of the six NCAA Regionals across the country scheduled to conclude Saturday advance to the final field of 30 teams at the NCAA Championship field that will play for a national title May 23-28 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas. The Golden Bears are looking to extend their school-record string of NCAA Championship appearances to five.
Cal, which has won NCAA Regionals each of the last two seasons in 2012 at the NCAA Stanford Regional and 2013 at the NCAA Pullman Regional, will begin Saturday’s scheduled third and final round from the first tee at 7:50 a.m. CT/5:50 a.m. PT. The Bears will play in five threesomes along with golfers from USC and Purdue.
UAB (292-292 – 584, +8). Illinois (293-292 – 585, +9) and Clemson (299-292 – 591, +15) will start Saturday’s final 18 holes ahead of Cal, while USC (302-292 – 594, +18) and Purdue (309-288 – 597, +21) trail the Bears closely.
“The way it’s looking we basically have four teams for the final three spots,” head coach Steve Desimone said. “When you get into an NCAA Regional you know you’re going to have a dogfight and here we go."
Brandon Hagy (73-72 – 145, +1) and Joël Stalter (74-71 – 145, +1) are both among a group of eight golfers tied for second place trailing second-round leader Brian Campbell of Illinois (69-70 – 139, -5) by six strokes. Stalter jumped up nine spots Friday while Hagy moved up four. Both have top career NCAA Regional finishes of third with Hagy accomplishing the feat at the 2012 NCAA Stanford Regional and Stalter at the 2013 NCAA Regional.
“When we had a snow delay this morning we all knew it was going to be a long grind it out type of round,” Hagy said. “I’m really proud of the team for digging in and playing tough. We are positioned well for tomorrow.”
“I’m really happy about my round and it was a great team effort,” Stalter said. “We’re back in it for tomorrow, and it’s a statement day.”
Shotaro Ban (78-73 – 151, +7) and Michael Weaver (80-72 – 152, +8) were key contributors to the Bears move on Friday as the two were a combined 13 strokes better than in Thursday’s opening round. Ban moved up eight spots into a tie for 25th while Weaver rose 18 positions into a tie for 29th.
“I kept the ball in play a lot better today and made plenty of birdies,” Weaver said. “We played really well as a team and that has put us in good position.”
“We put ourselves in a good position, but we’ve got some work left to do tomorrow,” Ban said. All four players that counted in the team tally improved their individual scores on Friday in comparison to Thursday’s opening round. Keelan Kilpatrick (82-82 – 164, +20) is the Bears’ other player in the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional lineup and is in 67th place.
“We had a real good heart-to-heart talk last night,” Desimone said. “We had two guys play well yesterday, four today and we’re going to need all five tomorrow. If we do then we’ll head to Prairie Dunes for the NCAA Championship last week.”
Cal has risen a total of 10 spots from its lowest point when the Golden Bears where last in a 14-team field midway through their first round.
“I’m really proud of the guys and I told them exactly that,” Desimone said. “This is a proud team that has won a lot of golf tournaments. They’re not only proud of the program they are a part of, but they are proud of what they have accomplished. You had a sense that there was a resolve today that they were ready to play.”
Weather conditions that have included rain, wind, cold and even snow that caused a two and a half hour delay that postponed Friday’s tee times have played a factor during both of the first two days of the event.
“These might be the two most difficult days of back-to-back weather that we’ve ever played in,” Desimone said. “The conditions were really tough yesterday well into the back nine. Today it was rain and wind and cold all today. For the guys to play the way they did in those conditions I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
“The guys played with real purpose and hung tough all day long,” associate head coach Walter Chun said. “The conditions were cold, rain and even some snow, but our players were relentless. Tomorrow is a big day and there is nothing like the final round of an NCAA Regional.”
NCAA SUGAR GROVE REGIONAL (HOSTED BY NORTHERN ILLINOIS) SUGAR GROVE, IL RICH HARVEST FARMS (PAR-72, 7,151 YARDS) TEAM LEADERBOARD (after 2 of 3 days, 2 of 3 rounds, 36 of 54 holes) 1. UAB (292-292 – 584, +8) 2. Illinois (293-292 – 585, +9) 3. Clemson (299-292 – 591, +15) 4. Cal (305-288 – 593, +17) 5. USC (302-292 – 594, +18) 6. Purdue (309-288 – 597, +21) T7. Jacksonville State (302-306 – 608, +32) T7. Kent State (299-309 – 608, +32) 9. Cleveland State (315-298 – 613, +37) 10. UNLV (308-309 – 617, +41) 11. Cal State Fullerton (319-309 – 628, +52) 12. Mississippi State (315-314 – 629, +53) 13. New Mexico State (317-315 – 632, +56) 14. Saint Peter’s (338-324 – 662, +86) PLAYER LEADERBOARD – INDIVIDUAL LEADER (after 2 of 3 days, 2 of 3 rounds, 36 of 54 holes) 1. Brian Campbell – Illinois (69-70 – 139, -3)
PLAYER LEADERBOARD – CAL INDIVIDUALS (after 2 of 3 days/2 of 3 rounds/36 of 54 holes) T2. Joël Stalter (74-71 – 145, +1) T2. Brandon Hagy (73-72 – 145, +1) T25. Shotaro Ban (78-73 – 151, +7) T29. Michael Weaver (80-72 – 152, +8) 67. Keelan Kilpatrick (82-82 – 164, +20) NOTES ► 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), 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. ► Stalter and Hagy both have top career NCAA Regional finishes of third with Hagy accomplishing the feat at the 2012 NCAA Stanford Regional and Stalter at the 2013 NCAA Pullman Regional. ► Stalter’s two birdies during his round Friday were on his second hole (par-five 11th) and final hole (par-four ninth). His lone bogey came on the par-five second. He had 15 pars. ► Hagy equaled his four birdies from Thursday, picking up his first on par-five 17th before three on his back nine on the par-five second, and par-four sixth and eighth. His bogeys came on a trio of par-fours (15, 18, 9) and a par-five (7). ►Ban both started and finished his round with birdies on the par-four 10th and ninth holes. He added two more birdies in between on the par-five 17th and second holes. His three bogeys came on the 15th, par-four fourth and par-three third holes, while he had a double bogey on 18. ► Weaver had a team-high five birdies after making just one in his opening round. His birdies Friday came on the 11th, 17th, par-four first, second and seventh holes. ’s lone birdie came on the ninth hole but followed back-to-back double bogeys on the par-five seventh and par-four eighth. He had a bogey on the 18th hole and also had trouble with the par-threes on his back nine with a bogey on three and a double on five. He also bogeyed his final hole on the ninth. ► Kilpatrick started his round with a bogey on 10 but most of his trouble came on a pair of three-hole stretches that he combined to play in nine-over. The first stretch included bogeys on the par-three 16th and 18th holes sandwiching a triple bogey on 17. He also had bogeys on both of his back nine par-threes (3, 5) as well as a double on the fourth hole.