Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Following two successful seasons with the Colorado golf team, Yannik Paul felt it was time to move on.
In the summer of 2015, he returned to his native Germany to pursue a professional career.
“Then I got an injury and couldn’t play for a month, and I missed the final stage of the European Tour school,” he said.
“It was not the right time to turn professional. It’s always better to turn professional when you really feel like you’re ready and you’re healthy and you’ve played some good golf.”
Three years after leaving CU for the first time, Paul is not only back, but playing his best golf as he nears the end of his stellar career with the Buffaloes.
Paul will lead a talented CU squad into the NCAA West regional tournament Monday through Wednesday at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, Calif.
CU is seeking its first trip to the NCAA finals since 2002, and getting there starts with Paul, the seventh player in program history to compete in four NCAA regionals.
Paul has posted a stroke average of 69.5 this spring, which is on pace to break the CU record of 70.67 set by his twin brother, Jeremy, in 2015-16.
“It’s definitely been my best year,” Paul said. “I’ve just learned a lot about myself the last two years.”
While Paul was a good player during his first two years at CU, he was re-energized when Buffs’ head coach Roy Edwards let him return to the team in 2016 after a year away.
“I’m really, really, really thankful for Roy that he let me come back,” Paul said. “It’s been definitely a life changer the last two years. I’ve had the best two years of my life.”
A year ago, he had six top-15 finishes and got to play one last season with his brother, who exhausted his eligibility and turned pro.
This year, Paul was named first-team All-Pac-12, leads or is tied for team lead in 21 statistical categories and was named CU’s co-Male Athlete of the Year for all sports (sharing the honor with skier Ola Johansen).
Paul also tied for second at the Pac-12 championships and broke a school record with eight tournaments under par this year. Of the 558 holes he has played, only three have been worse than bogey.
He credits his success to how he’s taking care of his body.
“I always had the opinion if you don’t have any injuries, you don’t really need treatments, but you need treatments to prevent injuries,” he said. “I really started doing that in the end of the fall.”
Previously, Paul dealt with some lower back and shoulder issues, but with his new routine, he said, “This is literally the first time in like four years where I haven’t really had any issues.”
Healthy and happy, Paul will leave CU with his name scattered through the record book.
“He’s really evolved, really grown as a student,” Edwards said. “He’s leaving here as one of our most decorated players of all time. He’s a great teammate, too. He’s really taken a huge leadership role on the team this year. I honestly can’t say enough good things about Yannik.”
Paul can’t say enough good things about Edwards, too, because it was that decision two years ago to bring Paul back that set him up for a successful finish to his college career.
“I’m just really happy and in a really good situation in my life right now,” Paul said. “Especially leading into professional golf, it’s nice to play some good golf. It opens up more opportunities.”
Nearly three years ago, Paul thought the hand injury that took him off the course for a bit was going to close some opportunities. As it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise for Paul, who graduated with his degree in business management on Thursday.
“Looking back now, if I would have made it (on the European Tour), I probably wouldn’t have my degree,” he said. “I’m way more relaxed going into professional life and feel like I have a Plan B if it doesn’t work. Obviously I’m really confident and I think I’m good enough to make it all the way to the PGA Tour and go for No. 1, but you never know.”
Before embarking on his professional career, however, Paul has some unfinished business with the Buffs.
“I’m not really about the records — I just want to get better — but I feel like that’s the only thing that is kind of missing, making it to (NCAA) finals and have a good run there,” he said. “I feel like we definitely have a good chance this year.”