The Colorado men’s golf team has made a habit of qualifying for the NCAA regionals.
Now, the Buffaloes are focused on finally getting past this hurdle.
On Monday, the Buffs will begin play in the NCAA West regional at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, Calif. The 13-team, 54-hole tournament will run through Wednesday, with the top five teams advancing to NCAA finals.
“If we play well, we’ll make it. I feel very confident in that,” CU head coach Roy Edwards said.
CU, ranked No. 42 nationally and No. 7 in this event, has qualified for regionals as a team for the sixth year in a row — the program’s longest streak since a seven-year run from 1989-95.
The Buffaloes haven’t reached the NCAA finals since 2002, but they head into this year’s regionals confident they can end the drought.
“We’re really excited, especially because this year we’ve had a really positive trend throughout the entire spring,” senior John Souza said. “In past years, it seems like we’ve kind of stumbled coming toward the end of the year, but this year, especially with the runner-up finish at Pac-12s, it gives us a lot of confidence heading into that.”
Led by senior Yannik Paul and sophomore Ross Macdonald, the Buffs finished second at the Pac-12 championships on April 25 in Los Angeles. As a team, they’ve had three top-three finishes this spring.
“I think every year it’s a little bit different,” Edwards said. “This team has really evolved and grown and worked together and they’re in a really good position. They’re very good competitors. There’s a little bit more pressure (in regionals), but it’s also a great opportunity.”
In addition to Macdonald, Paul and Souza, senior Spencer Painton and sophomore Daniel O’Loughlin are scheduled to play for the Buffs this week. Freshman Trevor Olkowski is an alternate.
It’s a group that has helped CU post a school-record 24 team rounds at or below par this year; the previous mark was 16. The Buffs’ team stroke average of 72.49 is on pace to be the program’s all-time best mark.
Although none of the Buffs had played the regional course until Sunday’s practice round, their results this year are a testament to their course management skills.
“I think it’s probably one of our biggest strengths, actually,” Edwards said of course management. “We’ve played a lot more different golf courses this year than we’ve played in the past.”
With regionals in mind, Edwards purposely set the Buffs’ schedule so that they would play some unfamiliar courses this year. As a group, they’re eager to tackle The Reserve at Spanos Park.
“We have three seniors on the team, so we have a lot of experience and we’ve played a lot of different golf courses, different grass types,” Souza said. “We’ve heard a lot about this course; that it’s all about angles. You might be better in the left rough than the right side of the fairway (on certain holes).”
If the Buffs can manage the course and play to their ability, Edwards feels good about their chances of moving on.
“Even though we haven’t advanced, we’ve played well (at regionals in recent years),” Edwards said. “For the most part, we’ve been competitive at every regional except last year, so we’ve been right there.
“We just have to take it over the hump this year. This group of guys is ready to do it.”
Each of the top five seeds in the regional are ranked in the top 30 nationally: No. 6 LSU, No. 7 Alabama, No. 18 Stanford, No. 19 Southern California and No. 30 Oregon. Sixth-seeded TCU is ranked No. 31. … The Buffs have set school records for most rounds in the 60s (50) and most sub-par rounds (86). … Last year, the Buffs were 12th out of 13 teams in regionals, but they tied for eighth in 2016 and finished sixth in 2015.