SONOMA, Calif. – No. 4 Cal (268-273 – 541, -35) dominated the first two rounds of action Monday at the Alister MacKenzie Invitational the Golden Bears are co-hosting with San Francisco at the Sonoma Golf Club. Cal leads the 16-team field by 21 strokes over second-place Pac-12 foes Oregon (282-280 – 562, -14) and Arizona State (281-281 – 562, -14).
“Sometimes you just run out of superlatives,” head coach Steve Desimone said. “A lot like last year when this team gets going we just play phenomenal golf. We got started early and we didn’t let up the entire day.”
The Bears have the top three players on the leader board with Joël Stalter (64-69 – 133, -11) one shot ahead of teammates Brandon Hagy (70-64 – 134, -10) and Pace Johnson (66-68 – 134, -10).
“Each of the guys wants to win,” Desimone said. “It will be fun to watch tomorrow. If the weather conditions hold up we should have a real shootout.”
With 18 holes to play Tuesday beginning with the first tee times at 8 a.m. PT, the Bears are within 13 shots of their own record at the event set when they finished 48-under par to win in 2010. Cal has won the tournament each of the past four seasons and seven of 10 during the event’s history.
Cal was 13 strokes better than any of the other 16 teams in the field after the first 18 holes Monday and extended its lead another eight shots over the final 18 holes.
Stalter led the way with an opening-round 64 that was a stroke shy of his collegiate best and featured nine birdies and a bogey. Stalter started his round on the third hole and had five birdies on par-fours (3, 9, 10, 18, 1), three on par-fives (13, 16, 2) and one on a par-three (17). His lone bogey also came on a par-three (14). Stalter added four more birdies during his second round with birdies on the ninth, 13th, 17th and second holes for a second time. He had a single bogey on the par-three seventh that he had made par on during his opening round.
“I’m really happy for the team the way we played today,” Stalter said. “Hopefully we will play as well if not better tomorrow. It’s time to break our record.”
Hagy continued his torrid start in 2013-14 that made him the Pac-12 Men’s Golfer of the Month in September after he finished second, third and first in his first three events of the season. Hagy had an amazing stretch of golf during his second round when he played nine holes beginning with an eagle on the par-five eighth in seven-under par. He also had birdies on the 10th, 11th, 12th, 15th and 16th holes during the run, all par-fours other than the par-five 16th. Earlier in his second round, he had birdies on the second and third holes, and a bogey on the par-three fourth. He had three birdies (2, 9, 13) and one bogey (3) during his first round.
“I really stayed patient out there,” Hagy said. “I didn’t score well in the morning but kept telling myself putts would drop and they did in the afternoon round.”
Johnson totaled 11 birdies and one bogey over his 36 holes. In his opening-round 66 that was a collegiate best he made birdie on the first, par-four sixth, 11th, 13th, 15th and 18th holes without a bogey. He started his second round with back-to-back birdies on the first two holes before his lone bogey of the day on six. He got that stroke back with a birdie on eight and added two more on the back nine (13, 16).
“The entire team obviously figured out how to make birdies out there because 35-under par after two rounds is unheard of,” Johnson said. “It really shows how hard we work on wedges and putting. Tomorrow should be a really fun day. I can’t wait to go out there and compete.”
Michael Weaver (68-73 – 141, -3) and Keelan Kilpatrick (76-72 – 148, +4) are also competing in the event for the Bears.
Weaver was tied for fourth after his opening round before falling 11 spots into his current position tied for 15th. He started on the second hole and began with back-to-back birdies on two and three. Bogeys on four and the par-three seventh dropped him back to par before a birdie on nine, eagle on 11 and birdie on 13 gave him his four-under par opening round. Weaver got to six-under par for the tournament after five holes of the second round with birdies on two and six before a string of three straight bogeys on seven, eight and nine. He got one stroke back with a birdie on 11 but returned it with a bogey on 15.
In the team’s lineup for the first time since 2011-12, Kilpatrick got off to a rough start with bogeys on six of his first seven holes (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) but would play two-under par the remainder of the day. His second-round even-par 72 that featured two birdies (8, 18) and two bogeys (5, 16) was included in the team score.
Cal was playing without 2012-13 collegiate player of the Year Michael Kim, who is missing the tournament due to an illness.
“It’s gratifying that we can play as well as we can without Michael,” Desimone said.
Cal has dominated for much of the early part of its 2013-14 season, including 19 and 30-stroke victories in its last two events. The Bears are coming off a historic 2012-13 season that is considered by many as one of the finest in the history of college golf when Cal won 12 of 14 stroke-play tournaments to set a modern-era NCAA single-season record. Cal was ranked No. 1 in the final 2012-13 team rankings by both Golfweek and Golfstat despite losing to Illinois in the match-play semifinals of the NCAA Championship. Among Cal’s victories during the season were second consecutive NCAA Regional (Pullman) and Pac-12 titles.
“One of the goals here was to build some momentum heading into Isleworth,” Desimone said about the team’s final tournament of the fall season that runs October 20-22 where the Bears will face some of the nation’s top teams. “It would be nice to finish this tournament off playing the way we have the first two rounds and put us in a great frame of mind.”
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