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Golfers Set For Spring Season

Feb 5, 2007

              BOULDER -- Things are settling down for the University of Colorado men's golf team, following an emotional rollercoaster the squad endured the previous year.


               Following the death of long-time coach Mark Simpson, the team first was under the direction of assistant coach Brad Neher, named the interim coach after Simpson's passing.  But he left due to personal reasons prior to the 2006 Big 12 Championships, with the team finishing out the season guided by three athletic administrators.


               Enter Roy Edwards, the assistant coach for the men's and women's programs at Kansas for four years and one of the most respected assistants in the nation.  He was named just the third men's coach in Colorado history on July 14, 2006 at the age of 29... following in the footsteps of Simpson and Les Fowler, who both coached the Buffaloes for 29 seasons.


Thus, Edwards became just CU's third full-time head coach since 1948, though he actually is the oldest person ever hired for the position, as Fowler took over when he was 23 with Simpson at the age of 27.


"Coach Fowler and Coach Simpson have built an extremely proud legacy at the University of Colorado," Edwards said.  "It's a privilege to follow them at CU, which is truly one of the great institutions in the world and it is an honor to be named its head men's golf coach.  I am enjoying working with the people of Boulder, the alumni and supporters of the program, the CU staff and the members of the men's golf team so we can perform to the high standards that we all expect in the classroom, on the golf course and in the community."


"Roy's vision for long term success and prominence of the golf program is refreshing," CU athletic director Mike Bohn said.  "He's proven to have played an integral role in producing results as an assistant coach at Kansas and Vanderbilt.  We look forward to his energy, passion and golf knowledge to bring immediate and long-lasting results."


Colorado enjoyed a decent fall, ending the semester with a No. 48 national ranking by both GolfStat and Golfweek, with the Buffaloes fourth in the NCAA's Central District. 


The Buffs had two top five finishes with top 10 efforts in all five fall tournaments, with their two best showings in the Rich Harvest Farms Invitational and the Windon Memorial Classic.  Right in the backyard where the NCAA Central Regional will be played this May, CU finished fourth in both meets among very competitive fields.


Colorado golfers posted nine top 20 individual finishes in the fall, including four top 10 with the best a third place effort by junior Patrick Grady in the Rich Harvest invite.


               "I think overall, the fall went all right," Edwards said in summing up his first semester at the reins of the Buffalo program.  "We had some good tournaments on some tough courses, and I saw a lot of good things overall.  We had individual rounds by everybody that leads me to believe that we might really be able to string things together in spring.  If we can follow through and do that, this can be a really good team." 


               The snowiest winter in recent Colorado memory put a damper on outdoor play, as six straight weeks of snowfall starting in late December through the end of January marked the first time little if any golf could be played along the Front Range around the turn of the year.  But Edwards is insistent that he will not let that be a hindrance to his team's preparation for the spring season.


"It's this simple.  It hurts us if we let it affect us mentally," he said.  "Sure, it has an impact on practicing outside, but the biggest impact would be if we let it affect ourselves in how we approach the beginning of the spring schedule.  There are other things we were doing to ready ourselves for what's ahead.  I had them do some specific reading between the fall and spring seasons, books that included what successful players do, how they do it, and how they got there.  We had to get a little creative but I think in the long run, it'll benefit us."     


               "My expectations of the team are that we'll handle our own business," Edwards added.  "We'll pay a lot of attention to those things we have control over, as in how hard we work and what we work on, helping teammates get better and playing with confidence.  I think our biggest strength is how hard the guys have worked in the off-season, both mentally and physically, on their games.  It's a matter of getting the guys to really believe in themselves and trust in their abilities."


               Edwards inherits five returning lettermen from the 2005-06 squad, and two more from the previous year in seniors Blake Moore and Derek O'Neill.  The 11-man roster includes seven upperclassmen as the make-up of the team is fairly balanced, not overly dependent on a particular class. 


               Moore sat out the year after Simpson suspended him for violating team rules, but he made good on all things the late head coach had required him to do to be reinstated, which he was by Edwards last summer after discussing it with current team members.  His return bolsters an already stout roster, as he was one of two Buffs along with fellow senior Ryan Anderson to qualify and play in last month's U.S. Amateur.  O'Neill redshirted last year while healing from two different injuries.


               "Our juniors and seniors are doing a great job of showing our underclassmen what it means to be a Buff, and what it means to be part of the Colorado golf program," Edwards said.  "Their mark will be left on this program for years to come.  I think it's a really good mix, and that's important to have that kind of stability.  You have a rollover from year-to-year that maintains itself and helps provide for a level of consistency and expectation."


               The three other juniors are Jim Grady (Patrick's older brother), and two transfers, Michael Baird (via Pepperdine last summer) and Tom Gempel (a mid-year acquisition courtesy of Northern Colorado).


               Sophomores Derek Tolan and Justin Bardgett along with freshmen Luke Symons and Riley Andrews round out the roster. 


               Baird posted the top stroke average at 74.2 in the fall, though played in just two tournaments; he had a 74.8 norm for 14 events at Pepperdine as a sophomore.  Patrick Grady was next at 74.8, followed by Derek Tolan at 75.8; they were the only two to appear in all five fall meets.  The numbers are a bit inflated, as CU's five tournaments were played on extremely tough tests of golf: in the five had a collective 22 players under par in the final standings, with 14 of those coming in one meet (The Prestige at PGA West).  Two events had no players under or even par.


               Colorado has five tournaments before the Big 12 Championships in April, including its own CU-Stevinson Ranch Invitational in central California in late March.  Edwards' goals for his team are no different than his predecessors.


               "I fully expect our team to be one that qualifies for the NCAA Championships, challenge to advance to the NCAA Finals and be competitive once we get there," he said.


               For the Buffs' opening meet this side of New Year's, with the team unable to go through qualifying due to the snowfall in Colorado, Edwards employed a four-prong evaluation to determine which five players would go to Hawai'i.  All four were based on different result components from the fall (tournament and qualifying scoring averages, lowest 18-hole tournament and qualifying scores).         Baird, Patrick Grady, Moore, Symons and Tolan will fly to the Big Island to represent the Buffaloes in the Hawai'i-Hilo Invitational, which runs February 7-9 in Waikoloa.


               The team was able to get in limited outdoor action since returning to school last month, but has done extra indoor practice work.