- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Steve Desimone says he’s the luckiest guy on the earth, having spent that last 37 years living a dream as the men’s golf coach at California.

However, the time has come for him to step aside and let someone else take over the program he created, nearly from scratch.

The 67-year-old capped his career on Monday evening when Cal bowed out of the NCAA tournament at Eugene Country Club in Oregon. With his players and own kids looking on, Desimone walked off the green to applause.

Then he posed for one last photo with the team, the group linked by arms around each other’s shoulders.

“It’s just the right thing for me to do right now,” Desimone said later. “I know I can look myself in the mirror and say, ‘You know, you’ve had one hell of a run, you’ve done your duty. It’s been an incredible run and you’re one of the luckiest guys on the planet.’ When you can say that at my age, it really is time to turn the page.”

The Golden Bears were making their sixth tournament appearance in seven years, 11th under Desimone and 14th in school history. The team was among 15 vying for eight spots for match play, which starts Tuesday.

Cal finished in a tie for 10th place and out of contention. The top individual finisher for the team was freshman Collin Morikawa, who was at 3-over after four rounds to tie for 10th.

California won an NCAA tournament title in 2004 under Desimone. He said it remains his fondest memory.

But perhaps his crowning achievement came from 2009 to 2014 when the Golden Bears strung together five straight NCAA tournament appearances. His team made the semifinals in both 2012 and 2013.

Cal set an NCAA record with wins in 12 of 14 stroke-play events during the 2012-13 season.

“There’s no question over the last seven years we’ve had one of the great runs in college golf history. The 2013 team was arguably one of the best teams ever,” he said. “If I had one regret, it’s that that team didn’t win a national championship, although at the end of the season we were ranked No. 1 even after the NCAA championship. I was honored with my second national coach of the year award, which shows just how good that team was.”

In addition to the two national coach of the year awards, Desimone is a three-time honoree at the Pac-12 level. The Golden Bears have won 66 tournament titles during his watch.

Among the players he’s coached are Michael Kim, the 2012-13 national player of the year, 2013 NCAA champion Max Homa, Peter Tomasulo, Ben Furth, Brandon Hagy, Charlie Wi, Michael Weaver, Dan Arroyo and Eric Mina.

In all, Desimone has spent 45 years coaching.

Cal dropped men’s golf to club status in 1979 and Desimone was tasked less than a year later with bringing back the sport on a $2,500 budget.

The team’s first major fundraiser was a tournament at Orinda Country Club near the campus that brought in $5,500. For the effort the winners received a 25-pound box of produce.

And with that, the Cal Golf Committee was born and the men’s golf team was reinstated by 1982.

The committee still exists today and as a result of its work, the men’s golf program is fully self-sufficient with an annual budget of about $600,000.

Besides his players, Desimone is most proud of the committee’s work. The group is working toward funding the sport in perpetuity, as well as paying the salary for the new head coach. The goal is to raise $12 million by the end of the year.

The endowment campaign is one of the reasons Desimone is not walking away from Cal entirely. Although he officially steps down at the end of June, he’ll still be active in making sure the fundraising sees its ultimate goal.

After that, he and his wife plan a trip to Hawaii - which will unsurprisingly coincide with a tournament that the men’s golf team has on its schedule.

“I don’t know who our successors will be but I certainly hope I’ll still be able to stay attached to the program in some unofficial capacity. And if the new coach has reasons to use me as a resource, I would love nothing more,” Desimone said. “That’s up to the new coach. But certainly I’d love to travel with the team a few more times. I’m their biggest fan.”

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