Self-Funded Cal Golf Team Favored to Win NCAAs

Self-Funded Cal Golf Team Favored to Win NCAAs

(AP) Self-funded Cal golf team the favorite at NCAAs
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
BERKELEY, Calif.
The top-ranked California men’s golf team has no home course to call its own, typically shuttling among seven or eight local spots. Most of the Golden Bears were passed on by the elite college golf programs.

Still, Cal is favored to win the NCAA championships beginning Tuesday in Georgia _ quite an accomplishment for the record-setting program that operates without any financial help from the university. The golf team has an annual budget of about $600,000.

Cal sophomore Michael Kim, the nation’s No. 1-ranked player, and Desimone walked across campus last week in their golf shirts when they encountered the business school’s graduation festivities. A bystander asked aloud, “Is he the next Tiger Woods?”

Woods starred at Stanford. The South Korean-born Kim, all of 19, has helped bring national respectability to the golf being played in Berkeley.

The Bears set an NCAA modern-era single-season record with 11 wins in their first 13 tournaments.

Now, they want to add to all those accomplishments.

When the Bears tee off Tuesday at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course in Milton, Ga., they will chase the second men’s golf championship to join the 2004 title trophy on display in Desimone’s office.

All five players competing this week have won tournaments, a school record _ with Kim’s four victories also an individual school mark.

It’s been quite a journey for Desimone, the Pac-12 Coach of the Year the last two seasons now in his 34th year.

Desimone began on a part-time basis with all of $2,500 in his budget, for a sport that had been dropped by Cal to club status in the spring of 1979. Golf was reinstated as an intercollegiate sport in summer 1982 thanks in large part to the tireless work of Desimone and a few pals.

It wasn’t until 1988 that Desimone became full-time after he spent eight years working two jobs and regular days of 16-18 hours. His other position was at The College Preparatory School in Oakland.

When offered the Cal job initially by golfing buddy and university colleague Bill Manning, Desimone took a week to decide. His immediate answer: No way.

A couple of weeks into the job more than three decades ago, Desimone reached out to longtime Stanford coach Bud Finger and made a trip to visit the rivals.

Frank Brunk, best known for his 102-yard kickoff return against USC in October 1949 that helped lead Cal to the Rose Bowl, got behind the efforts. Brunk’s help was a big deal for Desimone, who spent a couple of seasons on the Cal basketball team but rarely got off the bench.

Cal’s first major fundraiser in the reinstatement effort was a 53-player golf tournament _ with three foursomes of women _ at nearby Orinda Country Club that generated $5,500. The event featured four unique prizes _ 25-pound refrigerated boxes of produce.

The Cal Golf Committee formed in 1980, and the Bears survive today through fundraisers, an endowment and donors.

Desimone never wanted “a golf factory” but rather a well-rounded experience for his players. While the NCAA allows 4.5 scholarships, Cal is currently at about 2.75.

Laura Hazlett, Cal’s associate athletic director and chief financial officer, credits Desimone for the atmosphere around the team.

The self-sufficient program is on solid footing now. Cal placed 19th in the NCAA championship two years ago, then tied for third last season.

Not once did the 64-year-old Desimone consider walking away.

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