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Golfers Ready For Men's Big 12 Championships

Apr 24, 2008

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TRINITY, Texas - The University of Colorado men's golf team is enjoying one of its best spring seasons in several years, and the Buffaloes are hopeful that it can continue here this Friday through Sunday in the 12th Annual Big 12 Conference Golf Championships.


CU has had a rough run of late in the Big 12 meet, finishing 11th in both 2005 and last year while tying for 10th in 2006; the Buffs had finished in the "first division" (top six) in six of the seven years prior.   Coach Roy Edwards believes his team is ready to climb back into the first division and on the heels of a victory at Ohio State's Kepler Intercollegiate, even contend for the title.


The Buffalos have five top five finishes in 10 tournaments this season, including the win at Ohio State two weeks ago and last month in the Louisiana Classics.


Colorado's best efforts in the Big 12 title event have been a pair of third place finishes in 1998 and 2000.  The Buffs last won a conference title in 1968, claiming the old Big Eight crown.


"I feel really good about the way the guys have played this season, especially in the spring," Edwards said.  "We've gotten better as the spring has progressed, and I've seen noticeable improvement in pretty much every phase of everyone's game.  We're ready for this tournament and can't wait to see where we size up against some of the nation's best." 


Seniors Michael Baird and Jim Grady, junior Derek Tolan, sophomore Luke Symons and true freshman Michael Imperato will represent the Buffaloes in these championships.  Baird leads the team in stroke average (74.2), with Symons (74.3) and Tolan (74.9) right behind him as that pair have both posted four straight top 20 finishes. 


This is Tolan's third and Baird's second Big 12 Championship, but the other three are making their rookie appearances in the event.  Baird placed eighth last year at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., turning in a 77-73-70?220 scorecard.  Tolan finished 53rd and 58th in his two previous tries and is looking to dramatically improve on those efforts, though he will have to overcome a cut on his right hand and recently sustained and has been dealing it all week.      


Whispering Pines Golf Club will serve as the host of the championships for the second time, as it also was the site for the 2005 event.  It plays to a 7,249-yard and par-72 configuration and is located in the suburbs of San Antonio.


"Whispering Pines is a great course," Edwards noted.  "You kind of have to do everything well, though if you make a small mistake, it also offers an opportunity for you to make it back.  But a really bad mistake, like one bad swing, is almost always a two-shot penalty every time.  The course is beautifully maintained, just pristine.  It's a treat to have the league meet here.


There will be more opportunities for mistakes, or to correct them, as the championships expand to 72 holes and a third day for the first time in Big 12 history.  And for that matter, the first time in any conference title meet for Colorado. 


Colorado enters the meet ranked No. 60 (Golfweek) and No. 61 (GolfStat) in the country in this week's rankings.  There are four consensus top 40 teams participating, including the coaches' poll favorite, Oklahoma State (5 GW/6 GS), along with Texas A&M (16/23), Texas Tech (27/27) and Texas (38/39); seven are in the top 75.   Colorado is 10-4 versus Big 12 schools this season, but has not been in a meet until now with Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas or Texas A&M. 


CU was sixth in the coaches poll and thus is the No. 6 seed, and is paired with Texas (No. 4) and Baylor (No. 5) for Friday's 36 holes.  The trio will begin on No. 10 at 7:00 a.m. MDT and will start round two at 1:00 p.m. off No. 1.  The teams will be re-paired on Saturday for an 8 a.m. start and again on Sunday starting at 7 a.m.


                "We know that we have to be really patient and make good decisions and be confident," Edwards said.  "You have to be disciplined and not spray it all over the place.  We have played a variety of courses, most of them very difficult, and I think it's prepared us very well for Whispering Pines.  The guys have done a great job for the most part all year of staying in the moment, especially in Columbus two weeks ago in terrible weather conditions.  They're all playing really well right now."


                The weather here should be perfect Friday, with temperatures in the mid-80s, but there is a 30-to-40 percent chance of thunderstorms and rain on the weekend days.