When the start of the COVID-19 pandemic erased the 2020 collegiate golf season that was supposed to be the final collegiate campaign for Colorado’s Daniel O’Loughlin, he wasn’t certain if he had played his final round for the Buffaloes.
O’Loughlin had been planning to play an amateur schedule in the summer of 2020, yet as the dust settled from the initial shock of the pandemic shutdown, the world of opportunity O’Loughlin had been expecting during what was supposed to be his initial post-CU days last May had narrowed considerably.
Those amateur tournaments O’Loughlin planned to load up on were getting canceled. A native of England, a return home wasn’t feasible from a competitive standpoint, as even in a normal year the NCAA grind typically would offer a tougher challenge than the amateur slate back home.
In the end, returning to CU for his “super senior” season became O’Loughlin’s best option. The senior has made the most of the unexpected opportunity and will be the Buffs’ only entrant in the postseason when he tees off on Monday in the opening round of the NCAA Southwest Regional at the University of New Mexico’s Championship Golf Course.
“I wouldn’t have been able to play as high-level tournaments back in England, and I wasn’t even sure if tournaments would be happening because of the COVID restrictions,” O’Loughlin said. “By the end I was kind of thinking America, the college way, would be the best way to guarantee I’d be playing. I was in a team environment and that was the main defining factor. We were all going to be practicing together, playing together, as much as possible. And it turned out definitely to be the right decision.”
O’Loughlin is playing in his third regional tournament, and he is the fifth CU men’s golfer to reach regional play as an individual since the format was introduced in 1989. He is the only one of those five golfers to do so twice.
O’Loughlin is familiar with the par-72 course in Albuquerque, having played there three times previously with an average score of 72.67 over nine rounds.
“I was pretty happy with the location I’m going to, because I’ve played the course quite a few times,” O’Loughlin said. “That was probably the one place I wanted to go. I feel like I’m a senior, and I’m pretty comfortable going into it. The first time going in as an individual it’s kind of a new experience. Now that I’ve been there and I’ve been playing well all semester, it helps. I feel good about it.”
CU coach Roy Edwards said O’Loughlin as improved steadily over the past year-plus, and that the even-keeled play the senior has enjoyed this season could serve him well in a regional setting.
“He’s just really, steadily improved,” Edwards said. “Most players have little peaks and valleys, and like the stock market it kind of goes up over time, but there’s certainly some hemorrhaging along the way. But he has just kind of slowly and steadily gotten better. He’s really used this extra year to really grow and develop as a player and a person. He’ll be in a great position, graduating and going forward as a professional golfer when he chooses to do so.”