*Cover photo courtesy of Guy Warren Photography

California men’s golf posted continual improvement over The Southwestern Invitational’s two-day tournament, culminating with a fourth-place finish and two players in the top-5.

Junior Finigan Tilly was Cal’s top-scorer, placing fourth overall (213, -3) while embodying team’s efforts over the three rounds: posting lower scores each time out. The San Carlos, Calif. native finished the first round tied for 21st (74 +2), then moved to 14th after the second (72, E) before eventually moving into fourth with his lowest round of the tournament (67, -5). His 5-under-par performance was tied for the second-lowest round of the invitational and he was one of just four players to shoot a 67 or better. Tilly collected 15 birdies in the tournament which was the most on the team.

The other Golden Bear to place in the top-5 was freshman Kento Yamawaki (214, -2) whose stellar second round of 66 (-6) propelled him to a fifth-place finish. His 66 strokes were a tournament-low and included seven birdies to just one bogey. The only other player to shoot 6-under was Pepperdine’s Sahith Theegala who won the invitational.

“He was very strategic about where he wanted to leave his ball on the putting green which never left any stress for his round,” said assistant coach Chris Massoletti. “He was very methodical in the way he went about the round and kept giving himself opportunities all day. His attitude is a testament to how serious he takes his game and he is very comfortable in who he is on the golf course.”

The other two players who rounded out the scoring for Cal were redshirt senior Jamie Cheatham and sophomore James Song. Cheatham finished tied for 29th (222, +6) and also produced his best results in the final round, shooting a 70 (-2) which was an 8-stroke improvement over his second round. Song finished the tournament tied for 57th with 230 strokes (+14) and collected nine birdies. His 71 (-1) in the final 18 holes was both his best round of the tourney and also an 8-stroke improvement over round two.

As a team, the Bears saw drastic improvement after their opening round: Cal’s 302 in the opening 18 holes placed them in a tie for ninth-place, but their score improved by 14 strokes in the second (288), and another six in the third (282). The Bears also had the lowest combined score on Par-3 holes (3.25), the second most birdies as a team (53), and three out of the four scorers improved by five or more strokes over their second rounds. Out of 213 combined rounds of play in the tournament, only four had scores of 67 or less and Cal was the only team to have two players in that category (Tilly and Yamawaki).

“These guys showed a lot of patience and resolve this tournament,” said Alex and Marie Shipman Director of Men’s Golf Walter Chun. “We got off to a tough start in the first round and bounced back. We got off to a slow start this morning and they hung tough. I’m really proud of what these guys did these last two days.”

The Bears will return to action February 20-22 when they head to paradise for the John A. Burns. Intercollegiate in Lihue, Hawaii.