LONG BEACH, Calif. – Cal split a pair of matches against Pac-12 foes both ranked in the top 10 nationally in only its second time in school history Monday at the Del Walker Match Play Championship hosted by Long Beach State. The Bears defeated Oregon, 3-1-1, in their morning quarterfinal match before falling to Washington, 4-1, in an afternoon semifinal match, both at the par-70, 6,633-yard Virginia Country Club.
“Those were two really solid matches today and closer than they looked,” head coach Steve Desimone said. “There was a lot of really good play, and I’m very proud of our guys.”All three teams are nationally ranked, with Washington the highest at No. 4 according to Golfweek and No. 8 by Golfstat. Oregon is Golfweek’s No. 5 team and No. 10 by Golfstat. Cal is at No. 9 according to Golfstat and No. 10 by Golfweek.
Cal was the No. 4 seed in the eight-team event that was split up into two brackets, with top-seeded Washington, No. 5 Oregon and No. 8 UC Davis also in the Bears’ bracket. Washington was a 4-1 winner over UC Davis in the bracket's other quarterfinal match, while Oregon defeated the Aggies, 3-1-1, in a match between the two first-round losers.Max Homa, Brandon Hagy and Jeff Hamm were all winners in the team’s quarterfinal victory over Oregon.
Homa was a 4 & 3 winner over Oregon’s top player Eugene Wong, taking charge early as he won the third, fourth and fifth holes to take a commanding three-hole advantage. Homa capitalized on a double bogey by Wong on the par-three third and a bogey by his opponent on the par-four fifth. Homa won the fourth hole with a birdie of his own. He extended his lead to four holes after Wong’s bogey on the par-four eighth and Wong would never get any closer, winning only one hole with a birdie on the par-four 13th. Homa also had an eagle to win the par-five 12th.
Hagy took his match over Daniel Miernicki, 3 & 2. Hagy won the first two holes, both par-fours, after Miernicki bogeyed and double bogeyed to start his round. Hagy would get to five-up through six holes after Miernicki’s struggles continued with a bogey on four, a double bogey on five and a bogey on six. Miernicki would win the next three holes with a birdie on seven, and a pair of Hagy bogeys on eight and nine but never got any closer. On the back nine, Hagy won the 11th and 13th holes thanks to Miernicki bogeys, while Miernicki won the 15th with a birdie.Hamm would also never trail in his 2 up win over Rak Cho. Hamm birdied the first and third holes to go ahead by two holes early and extended his lead to three after Cho double bogeyed seven. Cho cut the advantage to a single shot with birdies to win eight and 12 but could get no closer. Hamm birdied 16 to extend his lead back to two holes.
Keelan Kilpatrick finished all square with Andrew Vijarro after winning the 18th hole with a birdie. Kilpatrick also captured the second hole on a Vijarro bogey and the seventh with his birdie. Vijarro won the first, eighth and 12th holes, all on Kilpatrick bogeys.
Pace Johnson was defeated 2 up by Robbie Ziegler despite winning the first two holes with a birdie and a Ziegler bogey, and not trailing until after the 12th. Ziegler’s comeback started when Johnson bogeyed the fourth and he evened the match after another Johnson bogey on nine. Ziegler’s first lead came when Johnson bogeyed 12 and he immediately extended it two holes when Johnson followed with another bogey on 13. The two traded victories over the last four holes, with Johnson twice cutting the advantage to one hole with birdies on 15 and 17, but Ziegler answering each time with birdies of his own on 16 and 18.Kilpatrick was the only Cal player to win against Washington, beating Charlie Hughes 2 up. Kilpatrick lost six of the first nine holes but also won three to keep Hughes’ lead to three holes after the front nine. Kilpatrick began his comeback when Hughes double bogeyed the 10th hole. He got another hole closer with a birdie on 12 and evened the match for the first time since the second hole with another birdie on 15. He had birdies on 16 and 18 for the final margin.
Homa had a dramatic match at the top of the lineup with Washington’s Chris Williams before finally falling 1 up. Williams led the entire match and by as many as three strokes after seven holes when he birdied one and four, and Homa bogeyed seven. Homa picked up his first hole when Williams bogeyed nine and picked up another when he birdied 11. The two traded holes on 12 and 13, with Williams briefly extending his lead back to two with a birdie on 12 but giving back the hole with a bogey on 13. Homa birdied 17 to even the match but Williams answered right back with a birdie on 18 to win.
“Match play has a life of its own,” Desimone said. “It can really provide some dramatic moments as a number of the matches did today, especially between Max and Williams.”Hagy was a 4 & 2 loser to Cheng-Tsung Pan, twice leading briefly by a hole before losing the lead for good with a bogey on seven. Hagy picked up his first lead when Pan bogeyed the opening hole but gave it right back with his own bogey on two. Hagy regained the lead for the final time with a birdie on four before losing it never to see it again after a Pan birdie on six and his own bogey on seven. Pan extended his lead to four after 14 holes, when Hagy failed to finish the 11th hole and bogeyed 12, while Pan birdied 14. Hagy managed to stay in the match when he won 15 with a birdie before Pan clinched the match with his birdie on 16.Washington’s other wins were more decisive as Cal never led in either match.
Johnson was defeated by Trevor Simsby, 4 & 3. Simsby won the first three holes and never looked back. Johnson took advantage of a Simsby bogey on four to cut the advantage to two holes but would never get any closer despite winning the eighth and 10th holes thanks to two more Simsby bogeys. Simsby won seven of the 15 holes played in the match.
Hamm was also a 4 & 3 loser to Larry Iverson. Iverson won five holes (4, 5, 6, 9, 10) and led by as many as five holes and never by less than four on the back nine. Hamm managed to win only one hole when he birdied 12.“Washington did to us what we did to Oregon in the morning,” Desimone said. “They jumped right on us. Every one of our guys was down three at one point or another. We hardly did anything right on that front nine. After the slow start, we fought and fought, and inched close enough to think we might get them, but Washington outplayed us and hats off to them.”
The other bracket was made up of No. 2 seeded UCLA, No. 3 USC, No. 6 Oregon State and No. 7 Long Beach State. Oregon State surprised USC in a quarterfinal match before, winning a tie break after an even 2-2-1 match, being defeated 4-0-1 by UCLA in the semifinals. The Bruins had knocked off Long Beach State, 3-2, in a first-round match. USC and Long Beach State’s second-round match was suspended with the teams tied, 2-2, and the fifth and final match all square through 14 holes when darkness fell.