Cal Coach: “I wanted to build a program based on honesty and integrity and academic excellence.”

Karen Crouse looks at the amazing story of Cal men's golf, which finally did not win a tournament this year after an unthinkable 6-0 start.

Much of the credit goes to Steve Desimone for building the program from nothing in an athletic department that was hostile to golf, by a man who despised college athletics!

For the better part of four decades, Desimone has been devoted to putting the student back in student-athlete. He has succeeded at Cal despite receiving no direct funding from the university, turning the lack of financial support into a golden opportunity to fix a college model he considered broken.

The team’s budget for coaching salaries, scholarships, recruiting and travel comes entirely through charity events and fund-raising and endowment drives. As Desimone darted from hole to hole in a golf cart last week, monitoring his players’ progress and delivering sandwiches, snacks and suggestions on club selection during the final round, he kept returning to this classroom defeat.

The professor’s refusal to budge weighed more heavily on Desimone than did the Bears’ first loss of the school year, a third-place finish behind New Mexico and Texas Christian in the 54-hole event.

“Isn’t the essence of teaching finding a way to help the best students?” Desimone said. “When you have special kids like these, it kills you when they can’t find a way to make this work.”