What: The 57th annual Pac-12 Men’s Golf Championships.
When: Friday through Sunday; 72 holes.
Where: The Country Club (par-71, 7,209 yards), Salt Lake City.
John Souza assumed it was something he could play through.
Yet when the pain persisted in the lower right side of his back last fall, Souza finally conceded something more problematic than simple muscle soreness was at work. An MRI revealed a stress fracture, sending Colorado’s sophomore golfer to the sideline.
Months later, Souza is pain-free and playing some of the most consistent golf of his relatively short CU Buffaloes career. Souza and the Buffs will look to get on a hot streak near the finish line of an up-and-down season when they tee off in the Pac-12 Championships Friday morning in Salt Lake City.
“This semester was a blast playing without pain and being able to finish rounds,” Souza said. “I’m glad I was able to recover quickly and play in some tournaments over the winter to get ready for this spring.”
Souza recovered in time to play in 17 rounds over seven tournaments this spring for the Buffs, solidifying his spot at No. 4 in CU’s lineup with an overall scoring average of 73.82. He turned in his top finish of the season by finishing in a tie for 13th at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic earlier this month.
“He’s healthy, and he’s someone that we thought would be our No. 4 guy coming into the season,” CU head coach Roy Edwards said. “He has established himself with that. He’s a very hard-working player, motivated to be good. He’s gained some confidence because he’s been healthy, and we’re now seeing the results that we expected of him early on.”
With junior Jeremy Paul leading the way at the top of CU’s lineup, and Philip Juel-Berg and an improving Ethan Freeman bridging the gap to Souza, the Buffs are confident they can improve on last year’s disappointing showing in the league final in what is arguably the most competitive college golf conference in the nation.
The Buffs finished 11th in the league tournament last year in what Edwards described as his team’s “worst tournament of the season.” It was CU’s lowest finish in four appearances in the Pac-12 tournament, though the Buffs’ final score actually was 28 strokes better than in their 10th-place finish in 2013.
“We definitely want to get a little revenge from last year,” said Freeman, who played a key part of CU’s fourth-place finish in the Pac-12 as a freshman two years ago. “There’s like eight teams there that everyone talks about, and we’re not one of them. We want to show we can play with any team in this league.”