Cal’s golf team may be ranked No. 1 in the country heading into this week’s NCAA championship tournament after winning a record 11 tournaments this season, but coach Steve Desimone said he isn’t ready to put this year on the top of his career highlight reel yet.
That top spot has plenty of competition from a 34-year career in Berkeley, and he said his favorite is easily the 2004 team that won the NCAA championship, and this team would have to bring a second trophy to the school to compete with that.
“I will tell you, you talk about pressure, I’ve never been through anything like that,” he said of the 2004 team. “And I’m welcoming that if it should happen again on June 2.”
The Golden Bears head into the tournament, which begins today at the Crabapple Course at the Capital City Club in Atlanta, already in the discussion as one of the best teams in college golf history. Desimone admitted he looks at what the team has accomplished — 11 wins in 13 tournaments and an individual combined record of 173-3-1 — and sometimes shakes his head in disbelief.
The stats back that up, but he said the other great teams — specifically, he mentioned the 1974-75 Wake Forrest and the 1986 Georgia Tech teams — did something this team still has to take care of.
“Those other great teams won NCAA championships,” he said. “And I think we are in the discussion, we should be in the discussion, but I wouldn’t want to go much further than that. When the season’s over and we can reflect on what we’ve accomplished and it turns out that second trophy is ours, then we can certainly stake a claim that we are one of the best and maybe the best ever.”
Led by Michael Kim, ranked No. 1 in the country since March and a top candidate for Player of the Year, Desimone said this squad has three things going for it heading into the tournament. They have what he said is one of the best short games in the country, they make the right decisions on the course and they are capable of handling “the crazy inevitable bad bounces and things that can happen on a golf course.”
Not to mention a coach who knows his stuff.
“He’s one of the reasons why I came to Cal,” Kim said of Desimone. “He’s been doing this for quite a while and knows college golf as well as anyone. He’s done an incredible amount for the program, and hopefully we can get another NCAA victory for him.”
Cal will be paired with Alabama and UCLA in the first two rounds today. The 30 teams are narrowed down to eight after 54 holes of stroke play. Starting Friday, the final eight teams compete in match play until a winner is crowned on Sunday.