ERIE — The University of Colorado men's golf team held off several charges to its second round lead to emerge victorious in its own Mark Simpson-CU Invitational, which came to a close Tuesday.
Colorado entered the final round with a three stroke lead over Utah, as the two Pac-12 Conference rivals had separated themselves from the field through 36 holes. The Utes pulled even with the Buffaloes on several occasions, but each time CU staved off the rallies and, in the end, hung on for a two shot win.
The Buffaloes finished with a 14-under par team score of 850, while Utah closed at 852 (minus-12).
CSU-Fullerton held on to its third place standing with a 1-over 865 team total, while Wyoming used a tournament-tying best single round score of 275 to zoom from seventh into fourth at 4-over 868. Grand Canyon rounded out the top five (878).
It marked the sixth straight year the Buffaloes have won or shared the title in their home event, the third outright crown in the run. It was also CU's seventh overall win in the nine years of the event. It was Colorado's second tournament win this month, as the Buffaloes opened the year with a win in Air Force's Gene Miranda Invitational.
"We really played well yesterday afternoon in some very bad weather, really difficult winds, and I thought the guys really battled hard today," CU head coach Roy Edwards said. "Utah has a great team. They beat up everybody last week in Idaho, and we knew we had to play well to beat them today".
CU sophomore Trevor Olkowski and Utah senior Kyler Dunkle entered the day tied for the lead with 5-under par 139 scores, and the two would pop in and out of the top spot throughout the day on Colorado National Golf Club's 7,703-yard, par-72 course circuit. In the end, the two officially tied for medalist honors after both recorded final round 68s for a 9-under 207 tally, though Dunkle birdied the first playoff hole (No. 18), while Olkowski made par to break the tie to be awarded the first place trophy.
"I drove the ball really well both days, and felt I putted well, so things all kind of came together," Olkowski said. "Some of my approaches weren't the best and I didn't play the par-3s as best as I could of, but I did really well on the par-4s and 5's.
"I really had no idea where anyone else or even where our team was," he added, "but Kyler's been playing extremely well and I knew he would continue that today. I knew it was going to be close, and a couple of mistakes I made down the stretch cost me the outright win."
Dunkle becomes the first repeat champion in the Simpson's history, as he won in 2017. Olkowski won his first collegiate tournament and is the third Buffalo to earn medalist honors in CU's home event. In addition, Olkowski shattered his previous best score for 54 holes of 212 as a collegian.
"It feels good to get that first win, hopefully the first of more to come," he added. "Once you get the first, you want to get the second. I was in and out of the five spot last year, but played in most of the tournaments so I was always competing, which is one thing that I've always relied on. My play at Air Force (where he tied for fifth) helped me as well. Playing in the final group with a chance to win there was an experience that prepared me for this."
"Trevor's one of those guys who is really steady and levelheaded," Edwards said. "He's played in 14 events and has shown incremental improvement, and is developing into one of the top players in the region.
"When he plays, even when he practices, he just has no weaknesses, so he's always going or be factor," he added. "If you were to watch him play, you'd never think he was winning the tournament. He's just real consistent, almost always in the right position, and I'm just really excited and happy for him."
Olkowski was consistent, finishing tied with a team-high 13 birdies, with 37 pars and only four bogeys, while leading the 96-man field in par-4 scoring (8-under par) and tying for eighth on the par-5s (4-under).
Dunkle led the field with 17 birdies, but had to overcome double and triple bogeys over the three rounds.
In all, six Buffaloes placed in the top 18, showing the squad has some depth despite being a team with just one senior.
"We had good rounds from everybody in the lineup," Edwards said. "Daniel and Ross had really good events, and have played well all month. They've been great in all three events we played.
"Kristoffer had two really nice rounds to finish, Andre really came out and played well these two days, and I'm really proud of him. And we had good rounds from the other two playing individually in Victor and Wilson."