Cal defends Pac-12 championship as Homa takes home top individual honors
LOS ANGELES -- No. 1 Cal (338-357-361-350=1406, +6) tied the unofficial all-time NCAA win record and defended its conference title Wednesday at the Pac-12 Championship played at the par-70, 7,236-yard North Course at Los Angeles Country Club. Max Homa (61-70-71-69=271, -9) led the effort by becoming the third player in Cal history to win conference individual medalist honors.
Cal's victory gives the Golden Bears 10 wins in 12 tournaments in 2012-13 to equal the 10 events won by the 1985-86 Oklahoma State squad. Cal has won 16 of its past 26 tournaments overall dating to the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign and finished in the top five in all 26.
"This was really fairy-tale stuff defending the Pac-12 title and winning for the 10th time to equal a record that's stood since 1986," Cal head coach Steve Desimone said. "It doesn't get much better than that. We've got more in front of us with an NCAA regional and an NCAA championship, but there's no question that this team distinguished itself [Wednesday]. It certainly can be in the discussion with the greatest teams in the history of college golf."
"A lot of things happened [Wednesday]," Homa said about the team's second conference title in as many years. "It all just kind of came together like a perfect storm. Tying the record for the most wins is pretty incredible just thinking about where we came from our freshmen year. I don't think I could have ever imagined this. It means a ton.
"Winning the Pac-12's again is so awesome. It means a lot to be the leader of your conference and to win it down in Los Angeles over UCLA in a hard-fought battle I think we just earned every bit of it. It just means so much to us."
Cal finished nine shots ahead of second-place and third-ranked UCLA (346-358-354-357=1415, +15) and more than 25 strokes ahead of every other club in a 12-team tournament field that featured six of the nation's top-11 squads. The Bears were seven strokes better than the Bruins on Wednesday's final 18 holes after beginning the day's fourth and final round of the 72-hole event two strokes ahead of the Bruins.
"We thought [Wednesday] would be our day," Desimone said. "We've had a great succession of final rounds. Tournament after tournament these guys have just played great golf in the final round. We just had that feel and that sense this morning that they were ready to play. It was a very special day, and this is a very special team."
Homa followed current PGA Tour pro Charlie Wi in 1995 and Eric Mina in '10 as individualist medalists at the event from Cal. His victory also was the eighth time a Cal player has picked up a least a share of individual medalist honors in 2012-13. It was Homa's first victory of the season and the second of his career with him sharing the title at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate during the 2010-11 season before being defeated on the second hole of a three-way playoff.
"It was worth the wait, to be honest," said Homa, who broke the course record Monday with his opening-round 9-under-par 61 that also was his collegiate low and equaled the lowest round shot in the nation this season. "To have my name on the list with all those other great golfers who have won this event is very special, and to do it in Los Angeles in front of a lot of my friends and family means even more."
"Anytime you're a Pac-12 champion it lasts forever," Desimone said. "Max has been overdue. He's really played well in the last five or six weeks. He got the great start with the 61 in the first round and never looked back. When you win by five shots in a field like the Pac-12 Championship you've done so many things right."
Both the team and Homa led from wire-to-wire, topping the leaderboards after each of the four rounds of the event.
Homa finished five strokes ahead of teammate and second-place finisher Michael Weaver (65-69-74-68=276, -4) to give Cal the top-two finishers. Weaver's second-place finish was the best showing of his collegiate career after two previous finishes in which he had tied for second twice. It also marked his second top-10 finish at the Pac-10/12 championship. Weaver was sixth as a true freshman during the 2009-10 season.
Homa started with a birdie on the par-five first hole and played steady the remainder of the way Wednesday as the five-stroke lead he began the day with was never seriously threatened. He finished with four birdies, adding birdies on the par-5 eighth, par-4 10th and par-4 17th holes. His three bogeys came on the par-3 fourth and 11th holes, as well as the par-4 18th.
Weaver's round was similar to Homa's in that he started well and played steadily. He finished with four birdies on the first, par-4 third, par-4 12th and par-5 14th holes. His two bogeys came on the par-3 seventh and ninth holes.
"What a week, this was awesome," Weaver said. "Getting to 10 wins and defending the Pac-12 title feels incredible. I'm so proud of the team and how hard we have worked all year, and I'm really happy for Max taking down the individual title."
Brandon Hagy (68-76-71-72=287, +7) and Michael Kim (71-73-72-71=287, +7) both moved up three spots during the final round to tie for 11th.
Hagy's final-round 2-over-par 72 included two birdies (Nos. 1 and 8) and four bogeys all on par-4 holes (Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 13).
Kim matched the four birdies posted by Homa and Weaver in his 1-over-par round of 71, picking up his birdies on the first, third, par-3 ninth and 14th holes. He also had three bogeys (Nos. 5, 17 and 18) and one double bogey (No. 6).
Joël Stalter (73-72-73-70=288, +8) posted his best round of the tournament with an even-par 70 to move up eight spots into a tie for 15th to give Cal four golfers in the top 15. His five birdies (Nos. 5, 6, and 8; par-3 Nos. 15 and 18) were the most by a Cal player on the day but he also had three bogeys (Nos. 11, 13 and 17) and a double bogey (No. 7).
James Yoon (74-73-75-73=295, +15) moved up three spots with a 3-over-par 73 to finish tied for 32nd in his first Pac-12 Championship. Yoon had 15 pars and three bogeys (Nos. 7, 13 and 18).
Cal will continue its campaign and attempt to become the first college golf team to ever win 11 tournaments in a season when the Bears play May 16-18 in the NCAA regionals for the seventh consecutive season.
Cal will find out which of the six regionals it will will play in when the 81 teams qualifying for NCAA regionals are announced on Monday.
A top-five NCAA regional finish would give Cal a ticket to the NCAA championship for a school-record fourth consecutive season and ninth time in school history. This year's event will be played May 28-June 2. The top-eight teams from three days of stroke play will advance to match play beginning May 31. The Bears reached match play for the first time in school history last season and defeated San Diego State 3-2 in the quarterfinals for their first NCAA match-play win before falling to top-ranked Alabama by the same score in the semifinals.