Entering the most important part of the season without its best player could cause concern for the Colorado men's golf team.
Instead, the Buffaloes are approaching it as an exciting challenge.
CU will host the Pac-12 Championships at Boulder Country Club from April 28-30, and they'll do it without senior Jeremy Paul, who earlier this week turned professional and ended his collegiate career.
"You can look at it in a bad way and just say, 'This is an awful situation; Jeremy is our best player,'" junior John Souza said. "Or you can look at it and say, 'This is a chance for us to show how deep our team is and that we have guys who are able to step up and fill Jeremy's shoes.'"
A year ago, Paul became CU's first all-American since 2009; he set or tied 24 CU school records during his career; and he led the Buffs with a 71.27 stroke average this spring.
Despite Paul's departure, the Buffs — ranked 25th nationally by GolfStat and Golfweek — are confident as they host a conference meet for the first time since 1972.
"We're always looking at next man up," junior Spencer Painton said. "What I'm proud of is the fact that we're still incredibly deep and we have plenty of firepower to compete and try to win for the home crowd. We can't replace a player like Jeremy. That much experience and that much of an impact on a program is going to be missed, but we certainly have the firepower to make up for it."
Senior Ethan Freeman and junior Yannik Paul — Jeremy's twin brother - will step into lead roles.
Freeman has a 72.13 average this spring and during his career has posted 32 sub-par rounds and 12 top-10 finishes. Yannik Paul has a 73.27 average this spring, with 39 sub-par rounds and eight top-10 finishes in his career.
Souza has posted a 73.07 average this spring and is coming off one of the best rounds of his career, when he fired a 4-under 66 during the final round of The Maxwell in Edmond, Okla., last weekend.
Painton (74.50 spring average) and freshman Victor Bjorlow (74.88) round out CU's top five. Between now and next week, sophomore Wilson Belk and senior Ryan Schmitz will battle for the sixth spot going into the conference championships.
"It's an opportunity," Buffs head coach Roy Edwards said. "They've got the ability to play at a high level; they all have. Jeremy was obviously a great player — one of the best in our history — but at the same time, everybody has the ability to play well, so we fully expect to perform at a high level."
Souza noted that Jeremy Paul notified the team of his decision back in January, and that advanced notice has benefitted the Buffs.
"We've all been prepared for it and we're ready to go and excited for the challenge," Souza said.
It's a challenge that includes four opponents ranked in Golfweek's current top 25, led by No. 1 Southern California. Stanford (No. 8), Oregon (No. 10) and Arizona State (No. 22) are also in the top 25.
CU last hosted a conference championship in 1972 (Big 8 Conference). That tournament was also held at Boulder Country Club. ... CU held a media event at BCC on Wednesday to promote the tournament. The day included a par-3 tournament that featured Buffs' head football coach Mike MacIntyre. While not a regular golfer, MacIntyre did have perhaps the shot of the day, sinking a chip shot from nearly 30 yards out on the seventh hole. ... Attendance is free for the Pac-12 championships. There will be a practice round on Thursday, with competition starting at 7:30 a.m. on April 28 with the first two rounds. The third round will start at 10 a.m. on April 29, and the fourth round will begin at 8 a.m. on April 30.