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Men's Golf Preview: Big 12 Championships

Apr 22, 2010

CU Golf Notes: Big 12 Championship

                TRINITY, Texas - The University of Colorado men's golf team arrived here Wednesday evening knowing the only way it could qualify for the NCAA Championships next month was that it needs to leave here Sunday with the Big 12 championship trophy in hand.


                And if the Buffaloes are to do that, they'll have to accomplish it with a quintet of golfers who equal the youngest team CU has ever brought to conference championship.


The 14th Annual Big 12 Conference Golf Championships will be held at Whispering Pines Golf Club (par-72, 7,480 yards) in Trinity, Texas, 90 miles northeast of Houston, Friday through Sunday, with the first 36 holes on tap beginning at 7 a.m. (MDT). Colorado enters the meet ranked No. 90 by both Golfweek and GolfStat in the country in the most recent rankings.


Colorado finished second in the 2009 meet in Hutchinson, Kan., dueling with eventual champion Oklahoma State the first 63 holes before the Cowboys pulled away over the final nine holes to win by 14 shots.  This time around, the Buffs are seeded No. 11, and come in with a 77-101-1 record against Division I competition; the first requirement to qualify for the NCAA Championships is to have a record over .500.  If not, the only way in is for a school to win its league title.    


"This year's been a struggle overall, but the team has definitely improved throughout the year and you always want to believe that your best performance is right ahead of you," head coach Roy Edwards said.  "Our expectation going into every tournament is to win, and that's no different this week. 


"We had very good preparation last week at the (Texas A&M) Aggie Invitational on a very similar golf course.  We've got a group of young guys, only one of whom has played in a Big 12 Championship before, but they all know there's more prestige with the conference meet and I expect a great effort out of the guys."


                "Last year is in the rearview mirror, it was at Prairie Dunes, an entirely different golf course, and only one player this year was in on that experience," Edwards said.  "It's (the No. 11 seed) about where we're ranked.  The teams about sixth through 11th are about the same.  We have the motivation that we want to go out and prove that we're better than our ranking.  And the way our championship is set up with neutral sites, and rotating between the north and south, it's really unique.  It's fun for a northern team to go down south and try to beat those southern teams on their home turf and their home grass."


"The main thing we need to do is have these guys understand what they have control over.  That's being confident, preparing well and handling our course strategy right from the get-go in the practice round and competing for every shot.  When we've done that the best this year, we're at our most successful."


Colorado will be represented by one senior, two sophomores and two freshmen (one true) in the tournament, tied for its youngest squad ever to play in the league championship; the 2003 Buffaloes had three freshmen, one junior and one senior compete (and turned in a sixth-place finish).  Both groups earned a collective 10 letters. 


The five players representing CU in this year's championship in order are senior Justin Bargett (the team leader in stroke average at 72.6), sophomores Sebastian Heisele and Kevin Kring, freshman Derek Fribbs and redshirt frosh Jason Burstyn.  Bardgett leads the Big 12 in rounds in the 60s with nine, while he, Heisele and Kring are tied for the most rounds played with 35.  Kring has the second lowest 18 hole score in the conference after shooting an opening round 64 in last September's Air Force Falcon Invitational.


It's not that unusual for the Buffs to have two freshmen represent the school in the conference meet, and freshmen overall have often done quite well.  Kring finished 12th last year as a true freshman; in 2000, Kane Webber and Stephen Carroll tied for 11th as frosh, and in 2003, Edward McGlasson placed 19th as a rookie.  The highest finish by a freshman, true or redshirt, in a league meet came in the 1979 Big Eight Championships, when Rick Cramer finished second (Steve Jones was third as a frosh the previous year). 


 The Buffs have played the nation's 57th toughest schedule coming in (fifth hardest by Big 12 schools); Colorado is just 1-13-1 versus Big 12 schools in 2009-10, but most of that's come versus the four top 20-ranked southern schools (0-12-1); CU's only seen two of its northern counterparts and is 1-1.


                A Colorado victory here is an admitted long shot, considering the northern schools success rate when the meet's been held in either Texas or Oklahoma on courses that feature Bermuda grasses.  And four of the six southern teams also happened to be ranked in the nation's top 12 or 17, depending on the poll.


"Only once in the history in the history of the Big 12 tournament that when it's been held in the south, has a team finished in the top five (2005, Missouri at Whispering Pines, finishing third)," Edwards noted.  "Our goal is to be competitive and to win the title; whether that's this year or in the future remains to be seen, but that's what our expectation is.  And we have absolutely nothing to lose, so I am expecting to play our best."


Oklahoma State was the choice by the 12 league coaches to win this year's championship, as the Cowboys are gunning for a fourth straight league title and eighth overall.  The predicted order of finish (coaches could not vote for their own team): Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, Missouri, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Nebraska, Colorado (11th), Kansas.