Oct. 23, 2012
WINDERMERE, Fla. - Top-ranked Cal (284-295-289 - 868, +4) completed the first unbeaten fall season in school history Tuesday by scratching out a two-stroke win at the prestigious Isleworth Collegiate Invitational co-hosted by Texas Tech and UCF at the par-72, 7,544-yard Isleworth Golf & Country Club. Michael Kim (67-72-73 - 212) won his first collegiate individual title to lead the Golden Bears.
"We've got a really happy group of Bears here as you can imagine and rightfully so," head coach Steve Desimone said. "This was a great team victory and really well earned. This was NCAA Championship type stuff with a great field and a great golf course."
The victory was the fifth in a row for Cal to open the 2012-13 campaign. The Bears also captured the Gopher Invitational, PING/Golfweek Preview (shared title with Georgia Tech), Pac-12 Preview and Alister MacKenzie Invitational earlier in the fall.
The five team wins are already only one shy of the school-record six tournaments captured by the 2011-12 squad and dating back through all of last season gives the Bears 11 wins in their last 19 events overall. Cal has been in the top five in all 19 of those events.
Cal battled throughout most of the day with the only two teams to shoot under par for the final round in second-place New Mexico (293-291-286 - 870, +6) and third-place Alabama (296-292-285 - 873, +9). Cal had led after each of the first two rounds but on Tuesday New Mexico jumped in front of the Bears by as many as five strokes late on the front nine before the Bears eventually regained the top spot.
"We were down but we righted the ship as we've done all five tournaments," Desimone said. "We hit a lot of good shots, made some clutch putts and the next thing you know we were back on top and wouldn't let go."
Kim was able to hold on to the lead that he had held since firing an opening-round five-under par 67 by making par on the par-four 18th hole. He had led by three strokes heading into his final three holes before back-to-back bogeys on the par-four 16th and par-five 17th holes reduced his margin to a single stroke over the second-place duo of New Mexico's James Erkenbeck (72-70-71 - 213, -3) and Alabama's Justin Thomas (73-70-70 - 213, -3), who were both in the clubhouse at three-under par.
After the back-to-back bogeys, Kim needed to pull off a clutch second shot 220 feet away from the 18th hole in a fairway bunker to secure both a team victory and his own individual medalist honors.
"He had to hit one of the best shots we've seen in a long time," Desimone said. "The plan was to cut it around the trees, land it somewhere short of the green and run it up, and he couldn't have hit a better shot. It trickled up onto the green to about 20 feet and he two-putted from there for both the team and individual victories. It was a great shot and a very clutch shot."
Kim needed three front nine birdies on the par-four first, par-five third and par-four sixth holes to help combat a double bogey on the par-three second. He then rolled off nine straight pars before his back-to-back bogeys set up the drama on the 18th hole.
"I'm just really excited to win five in a row as a team and also my first college event," Kim said.
Michael Weaver (68-76-71 - 215, -1) finished fourth and was the only other player under-par for the tournament. Weaver also doubled the second hole and had some stellar play to help him recover with a birdie on the par-three fifth and an eagle on the par-five seventh. On the back nine, he surrounded a pair of birdies on the par-five 13th and 17th holes with bogeys on the par-four 12th and 18th.
"Going unbeaten in the fall is awesome," Weaver said. "We are very excited about how well we have played. This obviously gives us a lot of confidence going into the offseason and motivates us to keep working hard."
Brandon Hagy (73-73-73 - 219, +3) was able to move up another three spots into a tie for ninth on the final leader board with his third consecutive one-over par round. Hagy also had a double bogey, with his coming on the par-fourth hole. He stayed at two-over for the day until his birdie on the par-four 10th. Hagy would finish at one over on the round by carding six pars, a bogey on 12 and a birdie on 14, both par fours, for the remainder of the way.
"We played really well when the conditions got tough," Hagy said. "There was definitely pressure playing out there with the best teams in the country, but we used our experience and played smart golf."
Max Homa (78-76-72 - 226, +10) played a big role in the team win by coming through with a huge even-par final round after being 10 shots over par through 36 holes heading into Tuesday's action. Homa, who moved up 20 spots in the final standings into a tie for 37th, got off to a shaky start for the third consecutive round with bogeys on the second and fifth holes before recovering with birdies on eight, 13 and 14. He missed finishing in the red with a bogey on 17.
"Today was a special day for the program," Max Homa added. "I could not have imagined this happening three years ago."
Joël Stalter (76-74-77 - 227, +11) had a five-over par final round score dropped from the team score Tuesday but not before each of his first two rounds Sunday and Monday were counters. He was one-under par early Tuesday after a birdie on four but then bogeyed five and double bogeyed seven to quickly fall to two-over for the day. He would add three more bogeys on 10, 15 and 18 for his final score.
"I'm really happy for the team," Stalter said. "What we have accomplished so far is just an amazing team effort. Looking back to a year ago we were unknown. Now we're the number one team in the nation and have just won five in a row. I feel really special to be a part of this. The main goal remains the NCAA title, and it is still a long road until then. All we can ask of ourselves is to keep up the hard work during the break and stay focused. There is still so much more out there for us."
Cal will return to action January 28-29 for the first tournament of the spring portion of its 2012-13 schedule with the Arizona Intercollegiate at Arizona National in Tucson. The Bears have six regular-season spring events on their slate before attempting to defend the Pac-12 Championship and NCAA Regional titles the won last season before reaching the NCAA semifinals.
Isleworth Collegiate Invitational (hosted by Texas Tech and UCF)
FINAL TEAM LEADER BOARD (after 3 of 3 days/3 of 3 rounds/54 of 54 holes)
FINAL PLAYER LEADER BOARD - INDIVIDUAL LEADER (after 3 of 3 days/3 of 3 rounds/54 of 54 holes)
FINAL PLAYER LEADER BOARD - CAL INDIVIDUALS (after 3 of 3 days/3 of 3 rounds/54 of 54 holes)