Golfers Ready For Men's Pac-12 Championships
SANTA ROSA, Calif. — The 61st Annual Pac-12 Conference men's golf championships, the ninth version with 12 schools, begins here Monday, with the Colorado Buffaloes looking for a good finish to improve their resume to secure selection into next month's NCAA Championships.
Arizona State enters as the Pac-12's top team, ranked No. 8 (Golfweek), No. 9 (GolfStat) and No. 10 (GCAA); Arizona is the only other Pac-12 team currently in the top 25 (rankings of 19, 21 and 17, respectively), with Stanford the next most respected (Nos. 32 and 39). It appears it might be down year for the conference nationally, but with a shortened season and some "interesting" scheduling in some conferences, that's likely not the case and the league will have a chance to duplicate the run the men's basketball teams had in the NCAA's. The Buffaloes enter at No. 71 (Golfweek) and No. 80 (GolfStat).
The teams will begin play Monday with 36 holes, followed by 18 each on Tuesday and Wednesday at Mayacama Golf Club, located north of Santa Rosa, Calif., in a secluded 600-acre sanctuary in the heart of the state's Winelands, coined as a "cross between a wine estate and a golf club." The course will sport a 6,785-yard, par-72 configuration for the tournament, though it has a non-traditional five par-3 and five par-5 holes and just eight par-4s.
"It's a (Jack) Nicklaus design, I have heard nothing but good things about it," CU head coach Roy Edwards said. "A private club in northern California, it is in really good shape, it's a prestigious golf course, and should be a great experience for all of us. It's not very old (20 years), it's not a long course, there is some target golf involved and with shorter courses, if you miss off the tee, it usually means you can buy yourself a lot of trouble."
The Buffaloes will be represented by six players in their "second years" with last year's eligibility due to the NCAA permitted spring athletes to get a "do-over" for their 2020 seasons. Seniors Victor Bjorlow and Daniel O'Loughlin, junior Cole Krantz, sophomores Kristoffer Max and John Paterson and technically in his third year classified as a freshman, Adam Matteson. O'Loughlin leads the team in stroke average at 71.39, with Bjorlow (73.17), Paterson (73.39) and Matteson (73.40) separated by less than a quarter of a stroke. Krantz is averaging 73.92 and Max 74.11. The sextet has earned 17 letters between them, an all-time high.
O'Loughlin is designated as CU's No. 1 player for the meet, followed by Bjorlow, Paterson, Matteson, Max and Krantz for Nos. 2 through 6.
Edwards really likes this team, his 15th after taking over the program's reins in the summer of 2006.
"I think we're in a great spot," he noted. "Our top four guys have been really solid for about a month. Dan, Victor and John have played solid all year, and Adam has come on and has been playing some really good golf. Cole has had some good moments, and Kris showed what he can do in winning in Pueblo last week. So I believe it's a really good format for us as we have good depth for the 6-for-5 format."
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 first time this season that most if not all teams are competing in a 6-for-5.
"Our formula for success here in general is getting them in a lot of tournaments and developing them throughout their careers," Edwards continued. "A lot of guys have had some opportunities. Daniel, John, Cole and Kris all played (in the Pac-12's) two years ago in Eugene, Daniel has played in them twice and Victor did as a freshman and all have played a lot of high-level golf. We're bringing a lot of experience here, and if we can have some great preparation ahead of the start, I really believe we could have a great week. The guys should have a lot of confidence from teams we've beaten this year -- some traditional powers of college golf in both the conference and nationally, and we've done so on a consistent basis. That really should heighten our confidence."
The six certainly have been battle-tested, having played in 163 combined tournaments overall (including six Pac-12 meets), or 476 rounds of golf. But are the Buffs peaking at the right time?
"I definitely think so, but I wouldn't necessarily call it peaking, we're just getting better and better and we've been playing well as of late," Edwards said. "Other than our first tournament of the year in The Prestige, we've played much better from event to event. It's a fun group, it's a confident group. I just have a great feeling about this team, it's just not reflected right now in the rankings. This has a chance to be a really good team, but we need to play well this week and see what happens the rest of the year."
O'Loughlin, flirting with the school's all-time career stroke average, is ninth in the conference. Paterson and Matteson are next, down the line a bit at Nos. 41 and 42, but those ranked between No. 24 and 54 are separated by less than a stroke-and-a-half.
Colorado started slow this spring but has essentially improved event-by-event, recording it's best two efforts the last times out, a tie for 11th in Stanford's "The Goodwin," and third in the Wyoming Cowboy Classic.
"Obviously it's been an odd year to say the least, but at the same time, I've been really proud of how the guys have handled themselves and have been playing," Edwards said. "Just playing a spring schedule has been pretty challenging, but the way we have responded has been great to witness. I feel like when we play well, we play really well and we have shown that more of late. Through all the challenges of the pandemic, academics and golf alike, I believe the entire team has really grown and evolved."
Live scoring will be available at www.golfstat.com.
NOTES: O'Loughlin's career stroke average is 71.66; he's chasing Jeremy Paul's school mark of 71.72 set from 2013-17 ... The first criteria to normally qualify for the NCAA Championships is that a school must own a winning record against Division I competition; that has been waved this spring due to the pandemic, but the Buffaloes are still 67-59-2 … Unlike with some other events, the NCAA is keeping the size of the field the same for the postseason, meaning 81 teams will participate in six regionals across the country (May 17-19), the closest to Boulder being in Albuquerque and Stillwater, Okla. … CU's fifth-man scoring average is 77.3, while the fourth-man average is 75.1 going into the Pac-12's; neither are school bests but are among the top five since those numbers have been tracked ... Colorado is 9-17-1 versus Pac-12 schools this year, having seen all at least once, and is 30-47-4 in rounds ... CU is 9-17-1 against Pac-12 schools this spring (30-47-4 in rounds), having bumped up against all on at least one occasion... Stanford is the defending champion, with eight different schools having won the title over the last 15 events; Oregon State, Washington State and the two 2012 newcomers, CU and Utah, are the only ones without a Pac-12 crown ... Opening pairings are by a random draw (sans the defending champ, which opens in the first groups on No. 1); Colorado is paired with Southern California and Washington State and will tee off on No. 1 from 9:06-10:01 a.m. MDT (Round 1) and from 2:36-3:31 p.m. (Round 2) ... The Pac-12 Network will air highlights daily after the conclusion of play and is covering the event and have a championship special on Thursday (April 29) at 9 p.m. MDT ... The NCAA Championship selections will be announced live on the Golf Channel on Wednesday, May 5 beginning at Noon MDT (also streamed live on its website) ... Washington will host the 2022 Pac-12 Championships next April (dates TBA); the Huskies were set to host last spring until the pandemic brought the sports world to a halt on March 12.