BRADENTON, Fla. – Cal won a pair of matches Sunday over UNC Wilmington and Tennessee in the school’s first-ever appearance at the prestigious Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship. The victories moved the Golden Bears into a semifinal match against the event’s defending champs and third-seeded Duke on Monday. Cal entered the tournament with a No. 5 national ranking according to both Golfweek and Golfstat that is the Bears’ highest of the season, while the Blue Devils are ranked as high as No. 16 nationally by Golfweek.
The Bears, seeded second in the 16-team field playing at par-72, 7,474-yard The Concession Golf Club, inched by No. 15 seed UNC Wilmington, 3-2, in their first match of the day and needed a pair of close 2 and 1 victories by Max Homa and Keelan Kilpatrick to secure the victory. Brandon Hagy also had a 9 and 7 win that was the largest individual margin of victory in the history of the tournament, while Michael Kim (5 and 4) was defeated soundly. Joël Stalter was unable to participate in the morning match due to travel delays.
The first victory of the day included some late drama in the final individual match remaining on the course when Kilpatrick pulled away from Patrick Sawrey with the team score tied, 2-2. The match was all square heading into its final four holes when Kilpatrick came within a foot of eagling the par-four 374-yard eighth hole and tapped in for a birdie to go one up. He would never trail again and iced the match when Sawrey bogeyed the second to last hole on the par-three 11th. The match started on the par-five 13th hole and had seesawed back and forth most of the way with neither player gaining more than a one-shot lead until Sawrey’s bogey on 11 ended it one hole early. Sawrey had early one-hole advantages when he capitalized on Kilpatrick bogeys on the par-three 14th and par-four 16th. But Kilpatrick came back each time with a birdie on the par-four 15th and took advantage of Sawrey picking up his ball on the par-five 17th. Kilpatrick then moved in front for the first time when Sawrey had a double bogey on the par-four 18th. Kilpatrick immediately gave up that lead with a bogey on the par-four first hole but got it back when Sawrey bogeyed the par-four second. Sawrey brought the match back to even when he birdied the par-five third and regained the lead with another birdie on the par-three sixth but bogeyed the par-five seventh to make the match all square again.
“Keelan played some sensational golf to pull out that match or we lose,” Desimone said.
Playing in the top spot in the lineup, Homa started strong and never trailed in a match against Thomas Bass that started on the 10th hole. Homa took advantage of three Bass bogeys on the par-four 10th hole as well as the 11th and 13th holes to take an early three-hole lead. He would extend his advantage to four holes with a birdie on the 15th. A Bass birdie on the 16th gave him his first hole of the day and a Homa bogey on two cut his lead to two holes but Bass would never get any closer. Homa birdied the third and took advantage of a Bass bogey on the par-three fourth to immediately extend his lead back to four. A Homa bogey on the par-four fifth and a Bass birdie on the sixth reduced Homa’s lead back down to two holes but both players made par on their last two holes of the match on the seventh and par-four eighth.
Hagy would birdie seven of the 13 holes he needed to dispatch of his UNCW opponent Stefan Brewer and never lost a hole. The match started on the 12th hole and Hagy came out on fire with five birdies on his first six holes that coupled with a Brewer bogey on the hole Hagy made par gave Hagy a five-hole lead after only five holes. Brewer’s bogey on the 14th was sandwiched by a pair of Hagy birdies on the 12th and 13th on one side, and the 15th and 16th on the other. Both players would birdie the 17th before Hagy picked up two more holes when Brewer double bogeyed the 18th and the first. After both players made par on the second hole, Hagy wrapped up the match with birdies on the third and the par-three fourth.
“Brandon played unbelievably,” Desimone said.
Kim double bogeyed the 10th hole to start his match against Payne McLeod and would never lead. He would win only one hole in the match when he birdied the par-four 13th.
Cal’s 4-0-1 victory over No. 10 seed Tennessee in the quarterfinals was much closer than the final team score would indicate. Homa (5 and 4 over Garrick Porteous) and Kilpatrick (4 and 3 over Marshall Talkington) produced solid victories with matches they never trailed in but the wins by Stalter (2 and 1 over Brandon Rodgers) and Hagy (2 up over Rick Lamb) came down to the wire. Kim was all square with his opponent Jay Vandeventer.Homa won his first two holes with birdies on the 10th and 11th. Porteous would cut the lead back to one on three occasions with a birdie on the 12th, and a Homa double bogey on the 14th and bogey on the 16th. But each time Homa brought the lead back up to two with an eagle on 13 and a birdie on 17, as well as a Porteous bogey on 15. Porteous also bogeyed the 18th hole to fall three back and would never win another hole. Porteous bogeyed the fourth hole to drop another hole back and Homa clinched the win with a birdie on five.
Kilpatrick started on the 13th hole and won his first five holes when Talkington went bogey, double bogey and then three more bogeys to begin his round before finally making birdie on 18 to win his first hole. Kilpatrick’s first bogey of the round on the first hole cut Kilpatrick’s lead to three but Talkington immediately gave him the hole back with his own bogey on two.
Talkington would twice more get the margin down to three holes when Kilpatrick bogeyed two and eight but never got any closer. Kilpatrick birdied the fourth and sixth holes to briefly extend his lead to five and clinched the win when Talkington double bogeyed nine.
Hagy’s match started on the 12th hole and he built a three-hole lead by winning the 14th and 15th holes on Lamb bogeys and the 18th on a Lamb triple bogey. Hagy bogeyed the first hole to give Lamb his first hole but birdied the third to get the hole back. Lamb then took advantage of back-to-back Hagy bogeys on four and five to cut the lead to a single hole but Hagy steadied and would maintain his one-hole lead until Lamb bogeyed the final hole of the match on the 11th for the final score.Stalter won two of the first three holes in his match against Rodgers but would eventually fall behind before taking advantage of late Rodgers’ mistakes. The match started on the 11th hole and Stalter birdied it to take a one-hole advantage, while a Rodgers double-bogey on 13 gave Stalter his early two-stroke lead. Rodgers took advantage of back-to-back Stalter bogeys on 14 and 15 to tie the match and the two would stay there over the next seven holes before a Stalter bogey on four put him behind for the first time. But Rodgers would double bogey five and bogey six to give the lead back to Stalter for good. Rodgers’ double bogey on nine ended the match.
Kim’s match was close most of the way with his birdie on the ninth and final hole allowing him to square up the match with Vandeventer. The match started on the 10th hole and a Vandeventer birdie on 12 gave him an early lead. Kim would take his lone lead of the day after Vandeventer bogeyed 13 and Kim birdied 15. But Kim would lead for only one hole as he bogeyed 16 to bring the match back to all square. Vandeventer went back in front with a birdie on two and made it a two-hole lead when he followed that up with a birdie on three. Kim evened the match when Vandeventer bogeyed four and Kim birdied seven. Vandeventer retook the lead when he birdied eight and Kim tied it back up on the final hole when he birdied nine.Cal is now 4-1 in match play on the season.
Individually, Kilpatrick improved to 4-0-1 in match play, while Hagy and Homa are now both 4-1. Stalter (1-1) and Kim (0-1-1) were both playing match play for the first time in their collegiate careers after travel and illness issues limited their preparation and in Stalter’s case prevented him from playing in the first match.
“I’m so proud of the guys,” Desimone said. “We had every reason, every excuse in the world from the long cross country trip to the situations with Michael Kim and Joël Stalter. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys but we’re only halfway there.”The winner of Monday’s Cal-Duke matchup will face the winner of the Arkansas-Chattanooga semifinal in the championship match on Tuesday. The losers of Monday’s matches play in a third-place match also on Tuesday. Action begins both days at 8:30 a.m. ET/5:30 a.m. PT.
“Duke is a great team and the defending champions here,” Desimone said. “They handle match play well and then we’re going to get either Arkansas or Chattanooga after that and both of those teams are tough.”