Cal looks to end historic season on top
Top-seeded Golden Bears aiming for first title since 2004
The way California coach Steve Desimone figures it, this already has been a monumental, historic season for his men's golf team.
With 11 wins in their first 13 tournaments this season, the Golden Bears already have set a NCAA modern-era record. But Desimone still remembers his team losing a match to Alabama in last year's semifinals of the NCAA Division I Championship, and he and his players want to atone for that when this year's championship gets under way Tuesday at the par-70, 7,319-yard Crabapple Course at the Capital City Club in Atlanta.
"The goal has been to get to Atlanta from the moment we lost last year in the semis," Desimone said. "We've accomplished that, and now we're looking forward to getting started."
Cal's 11 wins in its first 13 tournaments broke the modern-day NCAA record for wins in a single season that previously was established by Oklahoma State in 1985-86. Their latest two victories came at the Pac-12 Championship and in the NCAA Pullman Regional - one of six regionals that determined the 30 teams and six individual players competing in the NCAA championship.
Desimone said his team, ranked No. 1 in the nation and led by National Player of the Year candidate Michael Kim, has been successful because it has pulled together and excelled as a group.
"I've been doing this 34 years and there has never been a team that's been close to this," he said. "There are a lot of reasons for it, but primarily it has happened because these guys have understood all along what was out there for us and they've worked so hard. They are the epitome of a team."
The NCAA field consists of 30 teams -- the top five from each of six regional tournaments -- plus six individuals. The 30 teams in the field have combined for 30 national team titles in the 75-year history of the championship.
The schools who won their respective regional championships, in addition to Cal, included Alabama, New Mexico, Illinois, North Florida and UCLA.
The championship begins Tuesday with 18 holes of stroke play, followed by 18 more holes of stroke play Wednesday and Thursday -- with the low four individual scores each day counting toward the team score. After 54 holes are completed on Thursday, the individual national champion will be crowned and the top eight schools in terms of team scores will be seeded for match-play competition that begins Friday and runs through Sunday.
In team match play, each of the five players on a team plays a match against a counterpart on the opposing team. Each individual match is worth one point for his team, and the team with the most points after the five matches are completed advances to the next round.
Quarterfinal matches will be played on Friday, followed by the semifinals on Saturday - with the championship match beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday. NCAA.com will offer live web streaming of the tournament beginning on the final day of stroke play on Thursday throughout all of the match play.
Cal is the top seed heading into stroke play, followed by 2012 runner-up Alabama, UCLA, defending national champion Texas and Washington. The Longhorns set some history of their own last year, when they won their first national title in 50 years.
Host team Georgia Tech is seeded seventh headed into the stroke-play competition.
At the outset, they will all be chasing top-seeded Cal. And Cal will be chasing history, according to its coach.
"We know what's out there. History beckons. We've already become the best team in the history of college golf," Desimone said. "Now what we'd like to do is put an exclamation point on that and let people take some shots at it.
"Ever since we won at the Pac-12 Championship, it has been more front and center just how historic this year has been. We can't hide from it. We're not going to hide from it."