The University of Colorado men’s golf team opened with two strong rounds here Monday, ending the day in third place at the halfway point of the 59th Annual Pac-12 Conference Men’s Golf Championships.
The Buffaloes posted their highest placing at the midway point in the seven years as a member of the Pac-12; four times previously CU was either sixth outright (twice) and tied for sixth (twice).
Host and No. 23 Southern California owns the lead at the 36-hole mark, as the Trojans turned in a 23-under par team score of 687. Considering that USC was not allowed to play the course since it opened last November, that was a fairly remarkable score and good for a five-shot lead over No. 17 Stanford, which is in at 18-under 692.
The No. 45 Buffaloes hold the bronze spot in the standings at 11-under 699, with No. 32 Arizona (701) and No. 22 Arizona State (702) rounding out the top five. The league’s highest ranked team is right there in sixth (703). Just 29 strokes separate top-to-bottom, and only six are the difference between seventh and 12th, with defending champion and No. 30 Oregon in eighth place (711). Last place is held by Utah (716), but the Utes came back and posted the day’s second best single round score (10-under) in the second round.
CU got off to their hottest start in seven Pac-12 Championships, as well as in any round this season; starting on No. 10, five of the six players were under par on the opening nine with the sixth even, adding up to CU making the turn at 12-under par (and were 14-under at one point). The Buffs cooled a bit on the front nine and finished with a 7-under 347 score, good for fourth place and just two back of Stanford. The back nine was by far the easier side, as seven of the higher scoring holes for the first round were on the front side. In six previous Pac-12 meets, the Buffs best standing after one round was a tie for sixth two years ago, en route to a sixth place finish.
It was more of the same in Monday’s afternoon round, as the Buffs made the turn at 11-under, with the tougher nine again eating away at the score.
“I just didn’t feel like we were on our “A’ games, so to shoot the scores that we did was really good and I’m proud of the team,” CU head coach Roy Edwards said. “The back nine played easier than the front, and we didn’t play a handful of holes on the front side very well to finish the first round. In the afternoon, we just battled competed. We didn’t collectively have our best games, but hung in there to shoot 4-under.”
Senior Yannik Paul continued his stellar play, as he is seventh individually after a 5-under 68-69-137 first day; he had 10 birdies, 21 pars and just five bogeys om the Rolling Hills Country Club course that is sporting a 7,155-yard, par-71 configuration, including just two par-5s and three par-3s. His 10 birdies are tied for fourth in the 72-man field, and he is 4-under on the par-5s, tied for fourth best. He now has six straight subpar rounds, five in the 60s, the latter the second-longest streak in CU history.
“Yannik really battled too,” Edwards said. “He was good all day, and hit a lot of good shots, he just didn’t have his best putting day. He thought it was grind out there, but he’s in a good spot.”
Sophomore Ross Macdonald earned the sixth and final spot on the travel squad for the Pac-12’s due to his play over the last month, and he did not disappoint. He recorded the first back-to-back rounds in the 60s in his collegiate career in turning in a 69-69-138 score, that 4-under effort having him tied for eighth. He turned in a very steady performance, with eight birdies and 24 pars against just four bogeys. He is playing the par-4s at 3-under, tied for ninth in the field.
Senior John Souza is tied for 19th after posting a pair of 70s for a 2-under 140 total. He had six birdies and a team-best 27 pars (seventh in the field) with just three holes worse than the latter, two bogeys and a double, which came in the second round on the toughest hole on the course. He is 3-under on the par-3s, two of which played as the second- and third-toughest holes Monday; that’s tied for fourth in the field. He was honored Sunday night as the Pac-12’s Men’s Golf Scholar Athlete of the Year and went out and celebrated with two solid rounds.
Freshman Trevor Olkowski enjoyed his debut in the Pac-12s, as he fashioned a 73-71-144 scorecard (2-over par), and is tied for 41st. He avoided big numbers that freshmen can be prone to and recorded seven birdies and 20 pars with nine bogeys. Two of the latter came in the final five holes, otherwise he was flirting with an even-par first day.
Sophomore Daniel O’Loughlin opened strong with a 3-under 68, the lowest score by a Buff in their first Pac-12 round in CU’s seven years competing in the league. But due to a slight back injury he suffered last week, he had some troubles the second time around the RHCC loop, posting a 6-over 77; he actually turned at 1-under but played the front nine at 7-over with a 42. He’s tied for 48th with a 3-over 145 total, which he attained through five birdies, 25 pars, four bogeys and two doubles.
Senior Spencer Painton had a rough opening 27 holes for him, standing at 6-over at that point, but rallied with two birdies on his final nine to finish his day with a 4-over 146 total (74-72). He recorded six birdies and 23 pars, with abnormally uncharacteristic high totals of four bogeys and three doubles. He is tied for 55th.