March 20, 2012
BRADENTON, Fla. - Cal captured third place at the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship by defeating Chattanooga, 3-2, on Tuesday at The Concession Golf Club. The finish extended the Golden Bears' string of top-five showings to each of its nine events in 2011-12.
With Max Homa and Michael Kim being defeated in the top two spots in the lineup, Cal needed each of its final three players in the lineup to record victories in their individual matches in the team win and received those from Joël Stalter, Brandon Hagy and Keelan Kilpatrick.
"We spread it around," head coach Steve Desimone said. "That's what good teams do, get guys chipping in from all sides. We got contributions from everybody all four rounds, and we got contributions today from the lower end of the lineup."
Stalter never trailed in a 3 and 1 victory over Benjamin Weilguni in the third position of the five-player lineup. The match started on the second hole and Stalter took advantage of bogeys by Weilguni on the par-five third, par-three fourth and par-fourth fifth coupled with his own birdie on the fifth to take a three-hole lead. Stalter extended his margin to five holes when Weilguni bogeyed the 10th and double bogeyed the 12th, both par fours. Weilguni made a run and reduced Stalter's lead to two with a Stalter bogey on the par-three 14th, and a Weilguni birdie on both the par-four 15th and par-five 17th but the match ended when Stalter won the par-four 18th on a Weilguni bogey.
Hagy was also never behind his opponent Liam Johnston in a 4 and 2 win, taking a lead on the first hole of the match when Johnston bogeyed the course's third hole. The match went back to all square when Hagy bogeyed the fifth but after a Johnston bogey on the par-five seventh Hagy would lead the remainder of the way. He picked up additional holes with a birdie on the par-four eighth and a Johnston bogey on the 12th. Johnston brought the margin back to two holes when he birdied the par-five 13th, but Hagy pulled away and clinched the victory with birdies on both the par-four 16th and 18th holes.
Kilpatrick, who was defeated by Duke's Tim Gornik on the first extra-hole of their match that decided Monday's Cal-Duke semifinals, came behind from an early two-hole deficit to defeat Chris Robb, 3 and 1. The match started on the fourth hole and Robb capitalized on Kilpatrick's double bogey and bogey on the fifth and seventh holes to take an early two-hole lead. But Kilpatrick evened the match by making birdie on the eighth and par-three 11th holes, and then took his first lead with another birdie on the 12th. Both players would par each of the next four holes before Robb's birdie on the 17th hole evened the match again, but Kilpatrick answered with a birdie on the 18th to retake the lead and won the match when Robb bogeyed both the par-four first and second holes.
"It's great to have the experience we gained in match play, especially when you have close matches like we had in this tournament and the nerves get going a bit," Kilpatrick said. "The experience just makes you handle it better next time."
Homa looked to be on his way to improving to 5-1 on the season in match play early against Stephan Jaeger before eventually falling, 2 and 1. The match between the top players in each team's lineup started on the first hole and Homa took his first lead when he birdied three and extended it to two holes with another birdie on four. But a Homa bogey on five and a Jaeger birdie on the par-four ninth evened the match at the halfway point. Jaeger took his first lead when Homa bogeyed No. 10 and extended it to a pair of holes with his eagle on No. 12. Homa took advantage of a Jaeger double bogey on No. 15 to pull within one hole but Jaeger clinched the match with his birdie on No. 17.
"Max was locked in another great battle with another tremendous player," Desimone said. "This time for the first time in a while he came was on the short end."'
Kim held a three-hole lead at one point before a fierce comeback by Steven Fox netted Chattanooga's No. 2 player a 1 up victory. Also starting on the first hole, Kim staked his three-hole advantage by the fourth hole after Fox's double bogey on the par-four second hole, Kim's birdie on three and a bogey by Fox on four. Kim maintained the three-hole lead until his bogey on No. 8 started Fox's comeback. Another Kim bogey on No. 12 and a Fox birdie on No. 13 evened the match. Kim would take one last lead when Fox bogeyed No. 14 but a Fox birdie on No. 15 and a Kim bogey on No. 16 put the match in Fox's favor for the first time. Each player made par on the final two holes to give Fox the 1 up win.
"If we'd been playing match play all of these years, I would have retired a long time ago," joked Desimone, who is in his 33rd season as the Cal head coach. "It is so stressful. You can go through a stroke play tournament and you always feel like you can make up some shots, but when you get down in match play against good teams and you dig yourself a hole that's really tough to get out of. We survived and it was excellent preparation for hopefully the final eight of the NCAA Championship."
"We learned a lot about ourselves more than anything else," Desimone added. "Our guys are tough and we've seen that all year by how competitive they've been. We saw it again for four rounds here."
Top-seeded Arkansas prevailed over defending champion Duke in Tuesday's finals, 3.5-1.5. The Razorbacks' Kolton Crawford needed 21 holes to knock off Yaroslav Merkulov in the clinching victory.
"We were disappointed not to beat Duke in the semifinals yesterday and get into the finals, but I was very pleased to get out of here with a win today," Desimone said. "Chattanooga is a highly-ranked team and gave Arkansas all they wanted yesterday. I was pretty confident they were going to give us all we wanted today, and they sure as heck did."
Hagy won all four of his matches in the tournament to improve to 6-1 on the season in match play. Kilpatrick is 5-1-1 and Homa 5-2 after both were 3-1 in the tournament. Stalter (2-2) and Kim (0-3-1) both played match play for the first time this season.
Cal will be out of action for a little over two weeks for spring break before returning to the course for a pair of stroke play events at the ASU Thunderbird Invitational (April 6-7) and Western Intercollegiate (April 14-15) to the end regular season.
The postseason starts with the Pac-12 Championship hosted by Oregon State Apr. 27-29 at the Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis, Ore. The nation's top 81 teams will get into NCAA Regional action scheduled for May 17-19 at six possible sites around the country, with the nation's top 30 squads (five from each NCAA Regional) advancing to the NCAA Championship hosted by USC May 29 - June 3 at the Riveria Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Stroke play will be the format for all remaining action other than a return to match play between the final eight teams to decide the national title over the final three days of the NCAA Championship.
Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship (hosted by South Florida)
THIRD-PLACE MATCH - Cal d. Chattanooga, 3-2