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Golfers To Begin Spring Season

Feb 7, 2006

                BOULDER - The University of Colorado men's golf team has accomplished many "firsts" and has had several obstacles to overcome through the years.  But this spring the program has an unfortunate melding of the two.

 

                The Buffaloes are the first program in school history that will have to overcome the death of an active head coach in-season, as CU lost Mark Simpson to complications from lung cancer last December 5.  He was 55.

 

                Colorado takes to spring action Wednesday in the Hawaii-Hilo Invitational, a 54-hole event that runs through Friday and features 21 teams in the field.  Six top 25 teams (eleven top 50), including second-ranked Oklahoma State and third-ranked Georgia Tech will compete; Colorado enters ranked No. 41 by Golfweek and No. 44 in the GolfStat ratings.

 

                Simpson, himself a CU golf alum, had coached the team 29 seasons, taking over in January 1977 from his former coach, the late Les Fowler, who also piloted the Buffaloes 29 seasons.  They were the only two men to hold the position since 1948.

 

                Assistant head coach Brad Neher was named interim head coach last month, as he has ensured that the current team will have Simpson in the back of their minds ? not that they need much reminding, if any at all.

 

                "Overall, we have dedicated the season to Mark's memory, but more importantly, I let them dedicate it on a personal level," Neher said.  "I use his teachings every day, which I dedicate to him.  Many of the kids have singled out several of his sayings or one-liners.  He's always on our minds."

 

And he will be visually as well.  Team head covers are embroidered with "Simps 05" and bag tags have Simpson's picture on one side, with "Simpson's Buffaloes" written on the other.  The team created an acronym, with each word for each letter specifically to remember their fallen coach and many of the words and philosophies he both utilized and emphasized in his coaching career:

 

Strategic

Intense

Mastery

Patience

Smart

Outshine

Never give up

Strive

 

Brave

Unflappable

Fearless

Focused
Accountable

Loyal

Optimum

Edifying

Successful

 

                Senior and team captain Edward McGlasson, the team's fall stroke average leader at 73.7, leads a quintet that could make some noise out of the gate, as the Buffaloes peaked at No. 14 in the nation in the fall before settling in at their current rank entering the spring season.   The team had plenty of mild practice days after reconvening for the spring semester due the mild winter to date along the Colorado Front Range.

 

                McGlasson capped CU's final fall tournament by claiming his first collegiate medalist honor at the Tunica (Miss.) National Intercollegiate, dedicating the win to Simpson.  He used the victory as a springboard to a No. 46 national individual ranking.

 

McGlasson and Simpson formed one of those special bonds only coaches and athletes truly appreciate.  "Thinking about Coach is pure motivation; it gives me, and the entire team, more fire and drive," he said.  "Our purpose is not just playing for ourselves, but for something bigger.  He was a man of integrity.  He pushed and inspired me for almost four years, so his loss is still hard to get over.  Coach (Brad) Neher has been there for all of us through this, and he will do a great job of carrying the torch."

 

                Redshirt freshman Derek Tolan, second in stroke norm for the fall at 74.3, sophomore Patrick Grady and junior Ryan Anderson are veterans joining McGlasson.  Tolan posted three top 10 finishes in his first semester of college competition, Grady saw action in two fall meets (79.8 strokes per round), while this will be Anderson's first competition this year.   They will be joined by freshman Diego Munoz, who signed with the team last November and enrolled at CU for spring classes.   Munoz, who hails from Mexico City, has had a stellar amateur career in both Mexican junior competition as well as international play.

 

Munoz is the wild card at present.  With just 10 players on the roster, including senior Derek O'Neill who is redshirting, Neher is counting on him to bolster the team depth and up the ante in team qualifying competition. 

 

 "Diego is a very talented player for his age, and mature beyond his years, due to his travel about the globe and accomplishments to date," Neher said.   "He has done a great job adapting to college life in just the one month since arriving in Boulder.  I think he can be a major part of this team right away.  He has a great attitude and respect for where he is at this moment and could be as good as he wants."

 

Neher fully intends to maintain the lofty goals that Simpson always had set for his teams.

 

"Our top goals are to win the Big 12 championship and to go from there, regionals then nationals," Neher said.  "That's why we are here, and those are no different than what Mark wanted this team to accomplish.   We have a tremendous amount of talent and are going to work hard every day to meet our goals.  I think we have good chemistry and definitely a nice mix of veterans and experienced youth."

 

As for the opening tournament of the spring, Neher is realistic.

 

 "We obviously show up at every event to win, but this field is as good as any you see anywhere, much less for the first test of the spring," he said.  "So let's just say that I would be satisfied to be in contention (to win) the final day, but far from content.  We certainly want to be aggressive when we need to be, but at the same time, you have to play smart.  We just don't want to ever look back and wonder, ?What if?'"