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Jan 30, 2004

BOULDER - The University of Colorado men's golf team hopes to pick up where it left off in the fall as the Buffaloes open the spring portion of their season this Monday at the PING-Arizona Intercollegiate in Tucson.


At the end of the fall season, Colorado was ranked No. 34 in Golfweek and No. 39 in the GolfStat rankings, with senior All-American candidate Kane Webber ranked 51st individually by Golfweek.


The Buffaloes will get tested right out of the chute, as nine of the 14 teams set to compete in Tucson are ranked in the nation's top 50, including five in the top 25: No. 8 Arizona State, No. 9 California, No. 16 Wake Forest, No. 20 New Mexico and No. 24 Pepperdine.


The same five players that participated in CU's last two meets in the fall will open the spring for the Buffs: seniors Webber and Jeff Hanson and sophomores Kenny Coakley, Edward McGlasson and Derek O'Neill.


The irony was that the same quintet qualified to make the first spring road trip; CU head coach Mark Simpson was able to schedule six rounds of qualifying in at three different area courses (Omni Interlocken, The Heritage and Riverdale Dunes).  Webber was on fire, easily winning with a 23-under par score, including a 63, as the next closest still had a respectable 2-over tally.  He had a solid fall, leading the team in stroke average with a 71.83, the third best fall figure in school history, as well as posting top 20 finishes in all four of CU's fall competitions.


Webber was not alone in his fall efforts, as he was one of four players to post sub-74 stroke averages.  There were also nine top 20 finishes and 13 subpar rounds as the team stroke average of 73.92 was the third lowest for a fall season in CU annals, topped only in 1998 and 1999.


The PING-Arizona has usually been a challenge for the Buffs: this will be the 20th time Colorado will participate in the meet, but have only three top 10 finishes here.  This meet has usually been one of the first collegiate tournaments of the spring, so Colorado's performance often varies in accordance with how much practice CU has been able to get in at home in Colorado.


"Essentially from the weather standpoint, I feel we've had an opportunity to prepare ourselves to play decent in this tournament, and I thus am hoping that we won't lose a step from where we finished in the fall," Simpson said.  "The qualifying scores reflected exactly the way we were competing at the end of last fall, so I think we can pick up where we left off. 


"On the other hand, it's been two months since we've been in competition, and it does take some time to readjust," he added.  "But all of us competing down there are faced with that, and it varies from team-to-team and player-to-player.  But I think we're ready."


CU is not without success in the PING-Arizona, as in 1992, Jonathan Kaye claimed medalist honors in defeating Arizona State's Phil Mickelson on the first playoff hole, and a year later, Bobby Kalinowski tied for third in leading CU to a fifth place finish, its best ever in the meet.


The event will be the 399th that Simpson will preside over, as he will become just the fifth person associated with CU athletics to reach 400 later in February, when the Buffs play in the John Burns Intercollegiate in Honolulu.  He'll join Frank Potts (track, 640 events), Ceal Barry (women's basketball, 629 games), Sox Walseth (men's and women's basketball, 604 games) and Les Fowler (golf, 436 events).


The teams will play two rounds on Monday and the final 18 holes on Tuesday.