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Men's Golfers Ready For Big 12 Championships

Apr 27, 2005

2005 Big 12 Championship Notes

                BOULDER - The University of Colorado men's golf team has been faced with challenges all season, and this weekend will be no different as the Buffaloes need to come up big in the ninth annual Big 12 Championships, set for Friday through Sunday about an hour's drive north of Houston in Trinity, Texas.


                Texas A&M is the host of the tournament, which will take place at Whispering Pines Golf Club, a 7,330-yard, par-72 configuration on private land that includes its share of dense piney-wooded areas, expansive sand-laden areas and water.  A lot of water.  The course is rated as the third-best in the state of Texas by Golf Digest and is a Nicklaus design.


                Texas enters as the three-time defending champion, though Oklahoma State comes in ranked as the nation's No. 1 team.  Colorado, ranked No. 72 (GolfStat) and No. 79 (Golfweek) out of roughly 300 schools nationwide, is seeded 10th for the tournament by the league coaches.  That was largely based on rankings, as there are a consensus six top 40 and 10 top 75 teams in the conference at present.


                Head coach Mark Simpson has made the trip to Texas, as he continues to recover from surgery two weeks ago.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer in early December and had four chemotherapy treatments prior to the operation.  He was hospitalized for a week and then had a week of bed rest at home before returning to work just this past Monday.


                Assistant coach Brad Neher will essentially coach the team this week, as Simpson said he would mainly provide moral and emotional support.   He still tires easily during the recovery process, as doctors removed the lower lobe of his left lung on April 11; he was declared cancer-free the next day by his oncologist and pathologist.  Neher has coached the team before, as often Simpson will designate him as the on-course coach the players can seek advice from.


                "Overall, when you take a look at our season, it's been disappointing in the sense that we're not in position to qualify for the NCAA Championships," Simpson said.  "At the start of the year, and especially after the fall, I thought we would have a spot solidified by now.  Instead, we're fighting for our lives just to qualify for regionals instead of being a top 20 team jockeying for a better seed and with hopes for bigger things.  Not that we still can't make it to nationals, but we're certainly in a different category than where I thought we'd be, and that would have been the No. 3 or 4 team in our district." 


CU tied for fifth in 2004, its sixth first division finish; only OSU and Texas have finished in the first division all eight times in Big 12 meet history, with CU and Oklahoma next at six; the Buffs' best efforts are a pair of third place finishes in 1998 and 2000.


                Representing CU this time around will be its junior foursome of Kenny Coakley, Edward McGlasson, Blake Moore and Derek O'Neill, along with freshman Shea Sena.  McGlasson has led the team in stroke average from the start, currently at 72.8, followed by O'Neill (74.7), Coakley (75.1), Moore (75.1) and Sena (75.4).  O'Neill, however, recently has suffered a back injury and was cleared to play, though how close he is to 100 percent won't be known until Friday.


                "Seems like challenge after challenge comes our way, and now Derek has some injury issues with his back," Simpson said.  "If he has to make a go of it not fully healthy, that will put us behind the 8-ball a bit."


                The Buffs know what they need to accomplish this weekend to improve their NCAA postseason stock.  "Based on the results this spring, we were ranked 10th, and so we have to do something unique to not finish there because there are a lot of good teams in this conference," Simpson said.  We know which teams we really need to beat to gain an edge on in the selection process, so we do have a pretty good idea of what we need to do if we want to qualify for the NCAA Championships.  A poor showing here and there will be no postseason."


Colorado is paired with Nebraska and Iowa State and will tee off beginning on No. 10 at 7:50 a.m. MDT Thursday.  The field will then be repaired based on results the last two days.


It is the first time the Big 12 Championship will be spread over three days, as well as the first time CU will participate in a league meet that does not include 36 holes on the first day.  Every 54 hole league title meet since 1951 (Big Eight/Big 12) had two rounds the same day to open the meet with a single round to end things.




               Kenny Coakley was named second-team Academic All-Big 12 Wednesday, as the junior from Lakewood owns a 3.0 grade point in economics.  Fourteen golfers earned first-team mention with grade point averages above 3.2, while nine others between 3.0 and 3.19 earned second-team honors.