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College golf: Homa-led Cal reaches match play

The Valencia grad finishes in ninth-place individually

Posted: June 1, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 1, 2012 1:55 a.m.
 

For a golf team known for its late rallies, the University of California, Berkeley once again showed its flair for the dramatic on Thursday.

Leading the charge for Cal was junior and Valencia graduate Max Homa, who shot a 3-under 68 in the third round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship at the par-71 Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

That moved his overall three-day score to 1-over, which was tied for ninth place after starting the tournament in a tie for 98th among after day one.

It was Homa’s best career finish in three tries at the NCAAs after finished T-86 in 2010 and T-17 last year.

“This is probably one of my best accomplishments individually,” Homa said. “I think this is up there. For me though, especially, it felt really good coming from 5-over the first day and coming back to turn in 1-over for the tournament.”

On top of that, it was a good enough score to help the Golden Bears finish tied for fourth place as a team and advance to the final stage of the NCAA final over the weekend.

After one round, Cal was tied for 15th, and only the top eight teams move on to this weekend’s match-play tournament.

The team finished with a three-day score of 871, which was 11 strokes behind first-place Alabama.

University of Illinois golfer Thomas Pieters was crowned individual medalist with an overall score of 5-under.

But on this day, it was all about the team finish.

“I’ve been to the last two (NCAA finals) and we didn’t even come close,” Homa said. “To even be in position was awesome, but to actually make it, it’s a surreal feeling.”

Beginning today, Homa and his four teammates will match up 1-on-1 against San Diego State’s five players. The winner of each 1-on-1 match will earn a point. The first team to three points moves on to Saturday’s semifinal, where the process is repeated.

The team champion won’t be decided until Sunday.

“Match play is always different,” Homa said. “Anything can happen. It’s eight great teams.”

Before it even got to that point, it was a grind just to claw back into contention.

The day began well for Homa, who started on the back 9, when he recorded his only eagle of the tournament on the par-5 11th hole.

He laced a drive more than 320 yards down the middle, then hit a 260-yard 5-wood that just rolled off the green onto the rough.

That left him with a 20-foot chip, which he drained.

“It was just a perfect start,” Homa said of the eagle. “It made everything calm down and slow down a little bit.”

He added three birdies and two bogeys after that to come in with his best round of the week.

Brandon Hagy was Cal’s second-best finisher of the tournament, posting a 6-over, followed by Michael Kim and Pace Johnson at 9-over and Joel Stalter at 12-over.

With each passing round, the Golden Bears only seem to gain comfort at Riviera.

“I wouldn’t say very comfortable, but I’m feeling pretty good out here,” Homa said.

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