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Golfers Ready For Pac-12 Championship Test

Apr 25, 2015

Colorado Notes (Pac-12 Championship) | 2015 Pac-12 Championship Information

         PULLMAN, Wash. - The University of Colorado men's golf team ended the 2014 Pac-12 Championships brimming with confidence ... will it carry over to this year with the same cast of characters?

         The Buffaloes arrived here Saturday - the same six who competed in last year's league meet - and if they pick up where they left off, Colorado could very well contend for a top finish.  The 56th annual Pac-12 Conference Championships start Monday at Palouse Ridge Golf Club, Washington State's home course.

         "We're taking a team where every player has competed in the Pac-12s before, and I think we can use that to our advantage, head coach Roy Edwards said.  "That doesn't happen very often for anybody, so hopefully everyone will draw upon their experiences from playing in it before.  We competed toe-to-toe with the very best in college golf the last two rounds last year, so we know what we can do when we're focused on what we need to do."

         Colorado has been ranked in the nation's top 50 all season, as high as No. 33, and enters these championships ranked No. 48 by Golfweek and No. 49 by GolfStat (both out of 302 schools).  One poor performance in late March at Stanford's "The Goodwin," where CU finished 21st, dropped the Buffaloes about 12 spots in the rankings; they are computerized, so they don't take into consideration that the Buffs were down a player due to illness in the first two rounds.

         "There have been a few ups and downs so far, but mostly we've have positives over the entire course of the year," Edwards said.  "I've been really pleased how we have responded at times to adversity.  I know the team is motivated to do well this stretch of the season.  We know what to expect and the goals are very high. We're excited to see what we can accomplish, we've proven we can play with anybody, we're competing in the nation's toughest conference and showed we belonged with our fourth place finish a year ago, especially how we competed in those last two rounds." 

         Colorado was in 10th place at the midway point in 2014, but over the last 36 holes, only Washington (716 strokes) bested CU's performance down the stretch - the Buffs closed with a 718 total - and eventual champion Stanford third (722).

         Senior David Oraee, juniors Philip Juel-Berg and Drew Trujillo and sophomores Ethan Freeman and identical twins Jeremy and Yannik Paul are in Washington to compete for the Buffaloes.  A year ago, they equaled in experience the youngest CU team ever to participate in a league title meet; now, with 16 letters and 10 championship appearances among them, they are one of the more experienced.

         "It's pretty cool seeing that David is going to play in his fourth consecutive league championship, something not many here, or really anywhere, get to do," Edwards noted.  "He's had a really nice year for the team, a really good career, and we're really looking forward to finishing on a high note starting in Pullman."

         Oraee, currently playing as CU's No. 1 man, owns a 71.82 stroke average, second-best on the team; he had CU's best finish in the '14 title chase in Marana, Ariz., tying for 12th place with a 5-over 293.  He will become just the 22nd Buffalo out over 350 to play in four league championship meets, joining such past CU greats as Terry Kahl, Steve Jones, Rick Cramer,  Bobby Kalinowski,  Knut Ekjord,  Matt Zions,  Kane Webber, Edward McGlasson and Derek Tolan.  Kalinowski is the last Buff to win a conference title, claiming Big 8 medalist honors in both 1993 and 1994.

         Jeremy Paul, CU's stroke average leader at 71.68, is playing No. 2 currently, as Oraee owns the best spring average on the squad at 71.0.  Paul struggled a bit in his rookie conference effort last year, but after a 76-78-76 start, closed out with a 3-under 69 to help the Buffs to that fourth place finish.

         Also closing with a final round 69 last year was Freeman, who wound up tying for 16th (6-over 294); it was the ninth best finish by a CU freshman in a league meet, and placed him third among a group of 14 frosh in the conference.  Yannik Paul, after a rough 78-82 start, bounced back with a 69, the only score in the 60s in the third round, and closed with a 71.  And while Trujillo finished down the line overall (tie-56th), his middle round play (76-74) was important as both counted toward team scoring.

         But perhaps the gutsiest performance of all was turned in by Juel-Berg; after withdrawing in the first round with severe flu-like symptoms, he muddled through the day's second round and recorded a 76.  Still not feeling 100 percent, he managed two par-72 efforts in the last two rounds, playing a key role in CU's rise into fourth and also serving as an inspiration to his teammates.  He led all CU players in the league meet his freshman year (2012), tying for 24th.

Edwards isn't overly concerned with a nearly three-week layoff for his team prior to traveling here.

         "I'm not really concerned, we played three tournaments in a row (in a four-week span) so the guys got a bit of a break from competition," he said.  "That can be healthy, plus we got in some really good practices in mostly good weather before departing, and I think it was a really good way to prepare for the Pac-12 Championships."

         The Pac-12 has long instituted a 6-for 5 scoring format for its title meet, obviously a reward for those schools with greater depth and a challenge for those without it.  Quite often, it's either the first or only the second such format teams see during the season; this will be the second time the Buffs are competing in a 6-for-5, doing so with many other Pac-12 teams to close out last fall in UCLA's Gifford Intercollegiate.  Ranked as the 14th toughest field in over 200 tournaments this season, the Buffs finished eighth out of 10 in that one, with Jeremy Paul turning in CU's top performance in tying for 17th (215, +2).

         "It's more challenging because it requires a deeper team, but at the same time, it gives six of our guys an opportunity to play and score for the team," Edwards said.  "So I believe there are more positives than negatives.  Drew (Trujillo) is our sixth guy, and he's been a part of a lot of great tournaments both as a team and as an individual, and I feel real confident about him playing in that position as he's done it so many times.  Plus, he's a great competitor."

         The Buffs did enjoy consistent play from both the fourth (74.5 scoring average in tournaments) and fifth (77.2) positions, those averages marking records lows in the program for those spots.  It's also helped Colorado to an overall team stroke average of 73.11, which stands to better the mark set just last year (73.76); the same stands for the spring mark of 72.32, which is over a stroke better than the 73.39 mark established a year ago.


         Palouse Ridge will play at 7,257-yards but with a par-70 configuration, making it a longer course, though it does have three par-5s but five par-3s, instead of the more common two and four, respectively, on most par-70 layouts.  Utah's Jonathon Thomas tamed the course in WSU's home meet last fall, recording a course (and school) record 8-under 62.

         "I've heard nothing but good things about it, it's a very pretty course and highly regarded," Edwards said of Palouse Ridge.  "I know it's a kind of a hilly golf course, and has some length to it.  It will be important for us to have a great practice round and stick to our course game plan.  We've got the talent to play really well, but we have to stick to that plan. 

         "I also think it's exciting because you play all across the league's footprint, and every year you compete on a new course," Edwards noted.  "I think that's part of the great experience in our league.  It's right off campus, which is in one of those little college towns.  It reminds me of my Big 8 days, and I'm really looking forward to that."

         Stanford, ranked No. 9 by Golfweek and No. 13 by GolfStat, is the defending champion, but once again, the Pac-12 is the nation's premier golf conference, as the league boasts seven schools in the top 25.  Always tightly contested, there rarely is a clear-cut favorite.  The Buffs finished eighth in their inaugural Pac-12 appearance in 2012, and dipped to 10th in 2013, though were just eight shots out of seventh, before claiming fourth in 2014.  CU's last league title was the 1968 Big  8 crown.

         The teams will play 36 holes on Monday, with single rounds Tuesday and Wednesday concluding the 72-hole tournament; the weather is expected to cooperate, with little chance for precipitation and temperatures in the 64-to-74 degree range all three days.


NOTES: Colorado is 88-63-1 against Division I competition, clinching a better than .500 record and thus has met the first criteria for selection into the NCAA Regionals (May 14-16); CU has qualified for the postseason each of the last two seasons and five times in eight years under Edwards ... The Buffs have been invited to the NCAA Regionals 18 times in 26 years since the format started for the 1988-89 season ... Colorado is 5-17-1 versus Pac-12 schools so far in 2014-15, participating in tournaments with all 11 other league members on at least one occasion; the Buffs are 22-45-1 in head-to-head individual rounds ... CU is thus 83-46 against non-Pac-12 competition ... Opening pairings are by random draw (sans the defending champ, Stanford, which opens in the first group on No. 1); Colorado is paired with Arizona and Oregon State and will tee off on No. 1 from 9:30-10:20 a.m. MDT (Round 1) and from 2:30-3:20 p.m. (Round 2) ... The Pac-12 Championships will be condensed into a one-hour special that will premiere on Sunday, May 10 at Noon (MDT) across all Pac-12 Networks (with numerous replays to follow) ... Utah will host the 2016 championship, and then in 2017, Colorado will host its first league title event since the Big Eight Championship in 1972.