Golfers Head To Indiana For NCAA Regional Play
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. - The University of Colorado men's golf team is looking for some redemption here this week, as the Buffaloes arrived in two shifts Tuesday in preparation for the NCAA Central/Noblesville Regional, which runs Thursday through Saturday here in this Indianapolis suburb.
Colorado, ranked No. 48 in the nation (Golfweek; No. 52 GolfStat) is the No. 9 seed in the field, and is looking to advance to the NCAA Championship Finals for the first time since 2002. The seed ties the third highest CU has ever been in the 18 regionals it has qualified for since the NCAA adopted the format in 1989.
The Buffaloes have been idle since April 29, the last day of the Pac-12 Championships, where they finished a disappointing 11th. Despite a week of rainfall that culminated in a spring snowstorm, the Buffs only lost one practice day as the players were completing final exams and worked in some good practice time before the weather took a turn for the worse.
CU's ninth-year head coach Roy Edwards is optimistic that the Buffs will rebound from the poor showing at the Pac-12.
"I believe we have a real opportunity out of this region," Edwards said. "We've been a little more inconsistent over the course of the year than we would have liked, but this group has a lot of firepower and that inconsistency does show that when we play well and manage our games, we have the ability to advance to the finals. Everyone is on equal footing, we're all starting anew. This presents a great opportunity for everyone competing."
One benefit for this group is that the last two years, CU had to travel to the southern U.S. (Arkansas and Alabama) and had to play on Bermuda grasses, which the Buffs don't see that often in the west. The 14-team field will compete at The Sagamore Club in Noblesville, located about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis; it is a 7,173-yard, par-72 layout that boasts a Jack Nicklaus design.
"This is our first time for this group to play in a regional not in the south, so we won't have that period of adjustment it takes to get a little more used to Bermuda grass, so that's an advantage over previous years," he said. "Sagamore is the kind of course, from what I hear, that favors the long hitter and players who can manage their games, manage their misses. It will offer its own set of challenges."
Edwards already has faced two challenges this week. The team had to travel in two groups here as three players stayed behind for U.S. Open Qualifying, which was delayed a day due to the weather. And then he had to alter his roster for the regional late Monday, as junior Drew Trujillo will now play as CU's No. 5 man, subbing for Ethan Freeman, who fell ill over the weekend.
"We are hopeful that Ethan starts to feel better soon and it is unfortunate he won't be with us in Indiana," Edwards said. "But it does provide an opportunity for Drew that historically he has capitalized on. He had some solid rounds in Washington (at the Pac-12s) and is a tremendous competitor. There is no question we expect him to play well."
The other four Buffaloes who will compete here are senior David Oraee, junior Philip Juel-Berg and sophomore identical twins Jeremy and Yannik Paul. Jeremy Paul leads the team in stroke average with a 71.72 figure, topping his younger twin as Yannik owns a 72.13 mark; Oraee is third at 72.25, with the trio bidding to make the 2014-15 season the first at Colorado with three players with sub-73 averages.
Yannik tied for 19th at the Pac-12 Championship in Pullman, Wash., with a 5-over 285 score for 72 holes, with Jeremy tying for 29th (288); Juel-Berg was 34th (290). Oraee never really got things going and placed 61st (301), while Trujillo struggled in the first and last rounds but his 72-70 middle rounds was CU's best score. Though CU's team score improved each round, the overall effort was well short of the team's expectations.
"I believe we can take the negatives from the conference tournament and use those for motivation," Edwards said. "We have a great group of competitors, and this is the best time of the year to be a college golfer. There's nothing like playing for your school in the NCAA Championships. When we play our best, we play with a lot confidence and we have fun, and that is the result of preparing well and staying focused.
"We can't be concerned with how we played in the Pac-12 Championship," he continued. "We never gave up and threw in the towel. Only five teams advance here, so we can't afford any lapses, poor starts or poor finishes. One shot at a time, one shot is often the difference between advancing and staying home."
The field includes two-time defending national champion Alabama, the fourth-seed in the regional, as Illinois (ranked No. 4 nationally), Oregon (No. 8) and UCLA (No. 15) are the top three seeds; the Crimson Tide are ranked No. 21. Other schools in field, in seeded order from five through 14 are: SMU, UNLV, Virginia Tech, Georgia Southern, CU, New Mexico State, East Carolina, Marquette, Alabama State and Penn.
"Every regional is a tough one, the tops teams are all spread out and the competition is such where you have to play your best to advance," Edwards noted. "We've seen a lot of these teams this year that are in our regional, so we know what to expect. Regardless, you have to go out and compete your best."
Colorado has its practice round Wednesday at 7 a.m. (MDT), and will begin tournament play on Thursday off the No. 1 tee, with the Buffs paired with Virginia Tech (No. 7 seed) and Georgia Southern (No. 8). The field will be re-paired according to score after the first and second rounds, with all tee times between 6:00 and 8:34 a.m. for the second round (Friday) and between 5:30 and 8:04 a.m. for the final round (Saturday).
The top five teams and the top individual who is not a member of those squads will advance to the NCAA Championship Finals, which are scheduled for May 29-June 3 in Bradenton, Fla.
NOTES: Oraee, Jeremy Paul and Trujillo left for Indiana after competing in the Local U.S. Open Qualifying at The Heritage Golf Course at Westmoor in Westminster; the event was delayed a day due to the weekend snowstorm that blitzed the Colorado Front Range. Unfortunately, none of the three advanced to Sectional Qualifying, as Oraee shot an even-par 72 and missed making it by two shots; Paul recorded a 74 and Trujillo a 76. Former Buff Derek Tolan ('09) did advance, as he carded a 2-under 70 and was one of five co-medalists.