Golfers Set For NCAA Central Regional
SUGAR GROVE, Ill. - The University of Colorado men's golf team is ready to go and will be one of the first teams out of the chute when the NCAA Central Regional gets underway here Thursday.
The Buffs, seeded No. 21 in the region (fifth out of the Central District), are paired with conference rivals Baylor (No. 19) and Kansas (No. 20) in the first round and will tee off at 6 a.m. mountain time off the 10th hole. The weather could be a bit dicey, as overnight showers are expected, and temperatures when CU tees off should be in the mid-40s with 10 mile per hour winds, but nothing like last year outside of Cleveland when it was some 10 degrees cooler with more wind.
This is the 14th time the Buffs have qualified for regional play since the format was instituted in 1989, including the second straight year, third in the last four and seventh in the last nine. Colorado will be looking to advance to the NCAA Finals for the first time since 2002, when the Buffs tied for 14th in the final standings.
Colorado coach Roy Edwards became the first first-year head coach in program history to guide his team into the NCAA Championships. His two predecessors, Les Fowler and Mark Simpson, saw their teams earn bids in their sixth and fourth years, respectively, though there was no regional play the time and finals bids were harder to obtain. But it is still a nice plum at the end of Edwards' first season in Boulder.
Senior Blake Moore, juniors Michael Baird and Patrick Grady, sophomore Derek Tolan and freshman Luke Symons are representing Colorado in the event. Baird, CU's stroke average leader (73.3) is playing as CU's No. 1 man, and will be followed by Tolan, Moore, Grady and Symons in the lineup for the regional.
Baird played in two regionals and one finals as a member of Pepperdine's golf team his freshman and sophomore years, Grady and Tolan played last year in Chardon, Ohio, and Moore as a sophomore in 2004 at West Lafayette, Ind.
The top 10 teams out of 27 competing in the Central Regional will advance to the NCAA Championship Finals, set for May 30-June 2 in Williamsburg, Va.
"I think our chances are good," Edwards said about his team moving forward to the finals. "The guys are in good spirits, and I think there's a renewed sense of opportunity that we're excited about. It's the ultimate time for the team to come together, and we know we're a better team than what we've showed. We have one last chance to prove that we do belong as one of the nation's top 30 programs this season, and this is one sport where your fate is always in your hands."
"They've maintained a great attitude the whole year, and I think that is the type of thing that can payoff in the end. We've never been down, we've been positive in wanting to improve and to put in the work to do so," he added. "But we need to be more consistent from one to five. All our guys have had good tournaments, but we need to get three or four of the playing well at the same time. If we can do that, I think we'll be in good shape."
History has shown time and time again that a single stroke can mean the difference between advancing to the NCAA Finals and having a season end early. The last six Central regionals have all come down to one or fewer strokes separating the 10 teams that qualified and the 11th that was left on the outside looking in. Overall, on five occasions, there was a tie for the last qualifying spot, with one stroke the difference seven times and two strokes three times. Only three years has the margin between qualifying and going home been more than two shots, in 1992 (seven), in 1998 (three) and in 2000 (four).
This is the first time that Rich Harvest Farms Golf Course will be hosting the NCAA Central Regional, as the Jerry Rich-designed layout opened in 1997. The course will play to about 7,200 yards in a par-72 configuration. CU played in the Rich Harvest Farms Invitational last September, finishing fourth in the meet with Grady tying for third overall?the best individual finish to date by a Buffalo in the '06-07 season.