ad coach Steve Desimone is in his 35th season at the helm of the Cal men’s golf team in 2013-14 and has led the Golden Bears’ program to sustained success over the last three and a half decades. Cal won its lone national title in 2004 but the run his team has put together since the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign is unprecedented not only at Cal but on a national level.
Cal won 24 of its last 35 stroke-play events since the beginning of the 2011-12 season and has been in the top five 34 times, as well as each of its four match-play tournaments during the period. The Bears are ranked as high as No. 2 nationally according to both the Golfstat and Golf World/Nike Golf polls as of April 1, 2014, and were the nation’s top-ranked team at the end of the 2012-13 campaign despite a second straight defeat in the NCAA Championship semifinals. Cal swept the Pac-12 Championship and NCAA Regional titles in both 2011-12 and 2012-13, and its trip to the NCAA Championship was a school-record fourth in a row.
Cal has won six of its first nine events in 2013-14 with victories at the Saint Mary’s Invitational, Jack Nicklaus Invitational and Alister MacKenzie Invitational in five fall tournaments, before taking three of its first four events in the spring with wins at the Arizona Intercollegiate, John A. Burns Intercollegiate and National Invitational Tournament. Joël Stalter (Alister MacKenzie Invitational, Arizona Intercollegiate, National Invitational Tournament) has been an individual medalist three times, while Brandon Hagy (Jack Nicklaus Invitational, Arizona Intercollegiate) has won twice with Stalter and Hagy sharing Arizona Intercollegiate medalist honors.
Cal’s 2012-13 season that was arguably the best in the history of college golf earned Desimone the 2013 Dave Williams Award presented by Eaton Golf Pride as the national coach of the year in Division I men’s golf as well as Golfweek's honor. He was also the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season to mark the third time in his career he earned the honor.
The Bears posted the top 54-hole stroke-play score at the NCAA Championship hosted by Georgia Tech at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course to earn the top seed for match play at the event for the first time in school history. Cal opened NCAA match play with a quarterfinal victory over Arizona State before the Illini ended an incredible season that saw the Bears spend nearly the entire campaign as the nation’s top-ranked team in all three sets of rankings (Golfstat, Golfweek, Golf World/Nike Golf) including the final version following their NCAA semifinal loss.
Cal set a modern-era NCAA win record in 2012-13 with 12 victories in 14 stroke-play tournaments, eclipsing the previously established record of 10 by the 1985-86 Oklahoma State team. Cal’s first five wins came at the Gopher Invitational, PING/Golfweek Preview (shared with Georgia Tech), Pac-12 Preview, Alister MacKenzie Invitational and Isleworth Collegiate Invitational to record the first sweep of its fall schedule in school history. In addition to finishing as the top team during stroke play at the NCAA Championship and winning titles at the NCAA Pullman Regional and Pac-12 Championship, the Bears had wins during the regular season in the spring at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate, Fresno State Lexus Classic, Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters and Western Intercollegiate.
Michael Kim, who would turn professional during his junior season following the team’s 2013 fall schedule, swept the Haskins Award, Jack Nicklaus Award and Golfweek/Sagarin Player of the Year in 2012-13 to become the first Cal player to win national player of the year honors. In addition, Kim was one of three national finalists for The Ben Hogan Award presented by the Golf Coaches Association of America to the best college golfer in the nation for their amateur play for the 12 previous months. Kim, along with Max Homa and Michael Weaver were GCAA/PING Division I first-team All-Americans, with Kim adding Golfweek first-team All-American honors, while Homa and Weaver were second-team choices. All three were also GCAA/PING Division I All-West Region and first-team All-Pac-12 selections, while Brandon Hagy and Joël Stalter were both GCAA/PING Division I and Golfweek second-team All-Americans, GCAA/PING Division I All-West Region picks and second-team All-Pac-12 choices. In addition, the Bears swept Pac-12 Player of the Month honors in 2012-13, with Kim (October 2012, April 2013) and Homa (September 2012, April 2013) winning twice each, and Stalter picking up the honor for February 2013.
Cal players at least shared individual medalist honors a school-record 10 times in 2012-13 led by the school-record four captured by Kim (Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, Arizona Intercollegiate, Fresno State Lexus Classic, Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters). Homa (NCAA Championship, Pac-12 Championship) and Stalter (Arizona Intercollegiate, John A. Burns Intercollegiate) won twice each, with Homa becoming the first Cal player to ever win the NCAA title and the third to win the Pac-12 crown. Weaver (NCAA Pullman Regional) and Hagy (Alister MacKenzie Invitational) were individual medalists once each.
The NCAA title earned Homa the Arnold Palmer Award presented by Callaway given annually to the individual medalist at the NCAA Championship.
Kim also captured the Golfstat Cup given to a single player for all levels of collegiate golf with the lowest adjusted stroke average in the nation heading into the NCAA Championship. Kim (70.14), Homa (70.56), Stalter (70.68), Hagy (70.80) and Weaver (70.92) all finished with stroke-play averages under 71.00. Kim was the No. 1-ranked player nationally in the final rankings by Golfweek while he finished at No. 4 according to Golfstat. Cal had five players ranked in the top 20 by Golfweek (No. 1 Kim, No. 11 Weaver, No. 12 Stalter, No. 13 Homa, No. 19 Hagy) and top 25 according to Golfstat (No. 4 Kim, No. 10 Homa, No. 16 Stalter, No. 22 Hagy, No. 23 Weaver).
In 2013 Weaver also became the first current Cal player to participate in the Masters after qualifying for the event with a runner-up finish at the 2012 U.S. Amateur. In addition, Weaver gained an exemption for the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion with his U.S. Amateur showing and was joined by Kim and Homa, who reached the U.S. Open through the 36-hole sectional qualifying. Kim was the low amateur at the U.S. Open with a tied for 17th place finish, while Weaver also made the cut. The trio became what is believed to be the first from the same collegiate team to play in the same U.S. Open. Kim (United States), Stalter (Europe) and Weaver (United States) also played for their respective countries in the 2013 Palmer Cup at Wilmington Country Club in Delaware. Homa, Kim and Weaver later led Team USA to a victory in the 2013 Walker Cup at National Golf Links of America.
The string of exceptional play over the last two-plus seasons started in 2011-12 when Desimone was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the second time in his career and added GCAA/Eaton West Regional Coach of the Year honors for the first time. His 2011-12 squad reached the national semifinals and posted a series of firsts along the way that included a trip to NCAA Championship match play as well as a match-play victory over San Diego State in the quarterfinals of the event hosted by USC at The Riviera Country Club. Cal also won NCAA Regional and Pac-12 titles for the first time in events hosted by Stanford and Oregon State, and posted a then-school-record six tournament wins. Cal finished the season ranked No. 3 both by Golfstat and in the Golf World/Nike Golf Division I Coaches Poll, while Golfweek put the Bears at No. 6. The squad featured three GCAA/PING Division I All-Americans in Hagy, Homa and Kim.
Cal opened the 2011-12 campaign with a victory at the Wolverine Intercollegiate and also shared a win with Oregon at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational hosted by the Bears in the fall. The team’s Pac-12 and NCAA Regional wins in the two events leading up to the NCAA Championship were preceded by victories at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate and ASU Thunderbird Invitational earlier in the spring. Cal also finished second twice by a single stroke during the spring schedule to host schools Arizona at the Arizona Intercollegiate and UNLV at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters. Hagy, Homa and Kim were each named second-team All-Pac-12 and shared team MVP honors, with Kim adding the squad’s Newcomer of the Year award. Stalter was honorable mention all-conference and the team’s Most Improved Player. Homa (71.19) narrowly edged Hagy (71.41) and Kim (71.41) for the team’s lowest stroke average. Homa tied for ninth individually at the NCAA Championship, which at the time was the second-highest finish ever by a Cal player but is now fourth after being surpassed by both his own victory and Hagy tying for eighth in 2013. All three finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Stanford Regional with Hagy third, Kim tied for fourth and Homa tied for 10th, giving Cal three top-10 players at an NCAA Regional for the first time in school history and making Homa the first player ever at Cal to finish in the top 10 in the same season at both the NCAA Championship and NCAA Regional, with Hagy becoming the second in 2013. Hagy (T5th) and Stalter (T9th) also had top-10 showings at the Pac-12 Championship.
Desimone has also been honored over the last two seasons with a pair of prestigious honors. The California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association made Desimone the first coach to receive the Jack Lemmon Ambassador of Golf Award in 2013 and the Northern California Golf Association inducted him into its Hall of Fame this year. Both honors were presented at the CGWBA’s annual gala event during the week of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
In August of 2012 Cal players made arguably the strongest showing ever by a school at the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club in Denver, Colo., when four of the school’s national-best five qualifiers reached the Round of 64. In addition to Weaver’s runner-up finish, Hagy reached the semifinals, Homa the Round of 32 and Kim the Round of 64. Walker Huddy was also a participant in the stroke-play portion of the event.
Cal tied for 19th at the NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek to conclude a strong campaign in 2010-11, reaching as high as No. 13 in the national polls and equaling a then-school record with three regular-season tournament wins (The Prestige at PGA WEST, Alister MacKenzie Invitational, John A. Burns Intercollegiate) among its 14 events. All told, Cal had eight top-five finishes in 2010-11, also taking third at the NCAA Arizona Regional, Windon Memorial Classic and Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, placing fifth at the Pac-10 Championship and tying for fifth at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational. Weaver was named a GCAA/PING Division I All-American after posting an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championship that at the time was the highest ever by a Cal player and is still tied for second. Stephen Hale, Homa and Eric Mina all picked up second-team All-Pac-10 selections, while Ben An was an honorable mention choice. Homa was the team’s lone individual medalist, sharing the title at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate before falling in a playoff. An had a stretch of top-notch golf to lead the Bears during back-to-back team victories when he placed third at The Prestige at PGA WEST before tying for second at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational.
The amateur play during the summer of 2010 by members of the 2010-11 team was noteworthy as a school-record six Bears – An, Jamie Coré, Homa, John Murphy, Ben Mangum and Mina – qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay in August. No other school in the country had as many qualifiers. An, an incoming freshman who had become the event’s youngest winner ever at the age of 17 in 2009 at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., reached the 2010 semifinals while attempting to defend his title. Homa made the quarterfinals before falling to eventual collegiate teammate An.
The 2010 calendar year was a banner 12 months for Desimone that was capped off when he was one of seven members of the 2010 class inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame during the Reception and Awards Banquet at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas on December 6.
After winning its lone national title in 2004, Cal missed the NCAA Championship for five consecutive seasons (2005-09) before returning to its spot among the nation’s elite with a 23rd-place finish in 2010. Cal qualified for the NCAA Championship at The Honors Course by tying for third place at the NCAA San Diego Regional. The Bears also posted three regular-season victories to tie a then-school record, winning the Spartan Golf Classic, Alister MacKenzie Invitational and Arizona Intercollegiate. Several individuals had great accomplishments during the season, highlighted by the Pac-10 individual medalist honors won by Mina with the event hosted by Arizona State. Mina is one of only three Cal golfers to ever capture the event, with current PGA TOUR pro Charlie Wi the first in 1995 and Homa the third in 2013. Mina, who earned GCAA/PING Division I All-American honors, also won at the Spartan Golf Classic while Hale captured the Alister MacKenzie Invitational. Weaver became the first Cal player to finish in the top 10 at both the Pac-10 Championship and NCAA Regionals in the same season, tying for sixth and taking eighth, respectively.
Prior to its current run, the team’s previous appearance at the NCAA Championship came at the end of the magical 2003-04 campaign when Desimone orchestrated one of the greatest stories in the history of college golf as Cal came from eight strokes behind UCLA on the final day of the NCAA Championship at The Homestead in Virginia to win the national title by six strokes over the Bruins. It was the culmination of a season in which the Bears had to overcome several injuries but were able to play their best golf when it counted the most. As a result of his team’s impressive accomplishment, Desimone was named Golfweek’s Collegiate Coach of the Year and was honored as 2004 Grand Master of the Year by the Northern California Golf Association.
When Desimone came aboard as head coach at Cal in the fall of 1979 he was taking over a program which had lost its varsity status following the previous season. But Desimone was intent on not only returning the program to varsity status but taking it to a higher level. Among the first steps was the formation of the Cal Golf Committee in 1980, the primary support group for the men’s golf team, which helped return the program to varsity status in 1982. Soon after, Desimone began crafting Cal into the nationally elite program it has become today.
By 1986-87, Cal was ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation for the first time in the history of the program. One outstanding performance that season was a dramatic comeback at San Diego State’s Frank Scott Memorial Tournament. Trailing fourth-ranked Fresno State by 17 shots going into the final round, the Bears rallied to win their first major championship in 17 years. Cal’s success that season helped Desimone win Pac-10 Conference Co-Coach of the Year honors for the first time.
During an outstanding 1989-90 campaign, Desimone brought the Bears’ program to a then-unprecedented level. The team earned its first NCAA postseason berth in 26 seasons by qualifying for an NCAA Regional. Cal competed in the 1964 NCAA Championship, but didn’t actually earn its first berth until 1990 at New Mexico State, two years after the NCAA switched to a selection/qualifying format. Cal played in 13 tournaments that year, placing among the top 10 in all but two, including a then-regular-season school-record-tying three team titles and a tie for third place at the Pac-10 Championship. In addition, the Bears were ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation throughout the season. Ben Furth, the school’s first All-American in men’s golf and still the only men’s golfer in the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame, was a major contributor to the Bears’ success.
The following season came to a disappointing conclusion for Desimone and the Bears. A career-ending back injury to Furth brought to an end the hope that 1990-91 would surpass Cal’s great season the preceding year. Off the course, however, another important step in the rebuilding of the program was undertaken. With the generous support of the Cal Golf Committee, a minimal amount of financial aid was offered to incoming student-athletes for the first time in 15 years. This was a critical step because it finally demonstrated the Bears were committed to competing nationally in all respects and gave Desimone a new and critical tool in recruiting.
The 1994-95 season was historic as the Bears qualified for their first ever NCAA Championship and posted the best finish in school history at the time and still the fourth-best ever by taking sixth in the event hosted by Ohio State in Columbus. Cal was appearing at the NCAA Championship for the first time since 1964 when there was no selection/qualifying format. The Bears were previously selected to play in their third NCAA Regional in the past six years and came up with a sixth-place showing at the NCAA Regional hosted by New Mexico in Albuquerque after a second-place finish to Arizona State at the Pac-10 Championship. Wi led the way by earning first-team All-American honors and was Cal’s first Pac-10 individual champion, while Garrett Larson picked up honorable mention All-American recognition.
Cal returned to the NCAA Championship for three consecutive years from 1998-2000, finishing 15th at New Mexico, 16th at Minnesota and 17th at Auburn, respectively. The Bears were tied for fourth at the NCAA Tempe Regional, fourth at the NCAA Tucson Regional and tied for 10th at the NCAA Madera Regional during those three seasons, after finishing fourth, fifth and third, respectively, at the Pac-10 Championship.
The 1997-98 team led by All-American Dan Arroyo used the best final round of the day at the NCAA Tempe Regional to advance to the NCAA Championship and then was the final team to make the cut at the national event before eventually settling for its 15th place finish.
Arroyo was back again in 1998-99 and led a now-veteran group that also included 2001 U.S. Amateur runner-up Robert Hamilton to its 16th-place national finish. The Bears missed a playoff at the NCAA’s to have an opportunity to make the cut by a single shot.
The 1999-2000 squad featured All-American Han Lee and current associate head coach Walter Chun. The Bears needed a dramatic finish at the 2000 NCAA Regional at Riverbend Golf Club in Madera when Chun birdied his last hole of the tournament to force a three-team playoff for the final spot to advance to the NCAA Championship. The Bears would eventually win the playoff on the third hole, beating Stanford and Idaho. At the NCAA’s, Cal would miss making the cut by a single shot while Hamilton would move on in the championship as an individual.
All told, Desimone has directed Cal to the NCAA Championship nine (1995, ’98, ’99, 2000, ’04, ’10, ’11, ’12, ‘13) of the 12 times the Bears have gone in school history, including a current school-record stretch of four in a row. The Bears have played in all 18 of their NCAA Regionals (1990, ’93, ’95, ’97, ’98, ’99, 2000, ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13) under Desimone with a current run of seven straight that is one shy of the school-record eight in a row the Bears put together from 1997-2004. Desimone has a total of 62 stroke-play victories in his Cal career.
Desimone has coached 13 All-Americans (Arroyo, Furth, Hagy, Homa, Jeff Hood, Kim, Larson, Lee, Mina, Stalter, Tomasulo, Weaver, Wi) who have earned 18 All-American honors including a school-record five during the 2012-13 season. Hagy, Homa, Kim, Tomasulo and Weaver have all being named twice. Kim, Stalter, Tomasulo and Weaver have all played in the Palmer Cup, while Homa, Kim and Weaver have played in the Walker Cup. All but Tomasulo (2003) participated in 2013.
Cal has two former players with current PGA TOUR cards in Wi and James Hahn, while Homa and Kim are both on the Web.com TOUR and have played in PGA TOUR events.
Wi is in his 11th season playing on the PGA TOUR in 2014 and has finished second five times, most recently at the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Hahn, who finished fifth on the final Web.com Tour money list in 2012 to earn his PGA TOUR card, is in his second season on the PGA TOUR in 2014. Hahn also has his best career finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, tying for third in 2013. Tomasulo has also played on the PGA TOUR, while An, Hamilton, Jesse Ruda and Michael Wilson have competed in PGA TOUR events. Several others have played professionally on other tours, with George Gandranata, Hale, Jeff Hamm, Michael Jensen, Lee and Mina currently active in the professional ranks.
The Bears have also had success in the classroom during Desimone’s tenure with 13 All-America Scholars (Bill Albers, Scott Carlyle, Chun, Dan Coyle, Furth, Gandranata, Hagy, Hale, Murphy, Stalter, Tomasulo, Weaver, Michael Wilson) that have combined to earn the award 20 times. Albers, Chun, Carlyle, Furth, Hale, Tomasulo and Wilson all earned the honor twice while the Bears had three in the same season for the first time in 2012-13 when Hagy, Stalter and Weaver were all named. Carlyle was also selected a first-team Academic All-American in 2004, while Hagy was a third-team 2012-13 Capital One Academic All-America® pick for the Division I men’s at large team as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
In addition to his role as Cal’s head coach, Desimone will add Palmer Cup duties when he will serve as head coach for Team USA when the 2014 event is played at the Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England. Desimone is also the former Manager of the University of California Golf Club (1979-2010), a 130-member Associate Club of the Northern California Golf Association, as well as a former member of the PING Advisory Committee for college golf. In addition, he served two stints on the NCAA Pacific Region Selection Committee for the NCAA Western Regional (1991-93, 2002-04) and was on the campus-wide NCAA Self-Certification Committee in the mid-1990’s.
Desimone played for the Bears’ men’s basketball team as an undergraduate and then served in the United States military before returning to Cal to complete a double major in history and physical education, while also earning his master’s degree in physical education. After graduating from Cal, Desimone left Berkeley to become the Director of Athletics at the College Preparatory School in Oakland where he remained until 1988. Desimone returned to Cal in the fall of 1979 as the men’s golf head coach, and shared responsibilities with both jobs until 1988, when he joined Cal on a full-time basis.
Desimone lives in Orinda with his wife, Linda. The couple has two children who live in Minneapolis, Minn. Kim graduated in 2006 from Cal Poly and Robert is a 2008 graduate of Northern Michigan.
LAST UPDATED: April 1, 2014