By Cassie Stein, Golfweek
LAS VEGAS – For the first time since the 2010 Olympic Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational, California didn’t win or finish in the top 5 of a tournament when it placed eighth March 9 at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters.
The Golden Bears posted rounds of 314-302-287 in Las Vegas for a 39-over total. Their 14-over 314 in the first round was the highest round for the Bears in nearly 10 years. They shot the same number at the 2004 Windon Memorial.
“You could sense that their pride was hurt and they were wounded,” head coach Steve Desimone said. “It doesn’t take much for a team who has had so much success over the last few years to look up at the scoreboard and see what happened.”
Desimone said it was the team’s first nine holes that really did them in for the tournament. The team was a combined 27 over through the opening nine.
“In a field in like this, if you have a hiccup, you’re going to be paying for it,” Desimone added.
“We did a really good job of that (hitting the ball well and scoring) for 45 holes and it’s just a disappointment we couldn’t the other nine,” Desimone continued. “That’s something I want to take out of this more than anything else.”
California, which is normally led by its All-American trio of Brandon Hagy, Joel Stalter and Michael Weaver, had redshirt sophomore Keelan Kilpatrick pace the team and place inside the top-15 at Southern Highlands Golf Club for the second time in his career.
Kilpatrick, who joined the Bears in the spring of 2012 from New Zealand, played in seven tournaments before taking the 2012-13 season off to gain entry into the Haas School of Business at Berkley.
Kilpatrick’s game of hitting fairways and greens paid off in Las Vegas. He added that he could probably count on one hand the number of times he missed a fairway in three rounds.
“Keelan has played very well over the last five to six weeks,” Desimone said. “I like his chances of competing for the line up as we move down the stretch. When you look at his overall play, the way he’s been playing, his play has been good and steady, and it looks like he’s settling nicely and becoming more comfortable.”
With the team gaining back sophomore Shotaro Ban from a wrist injuries, sophomore James Yoon cracking the lineup for Arizona and Kilpatrick, Desimone is pleased that the future bodes well for Cal as they head into a transition year for 2014-15. The team will lose Hagy, Stalter, Weaver and Pace Johnson to graduation.
It’s a quick turnaround for the third-ranked team in the country as the team headed to Tucson National on Wednesday for the NIT Tournament.