O'Loughlin Ready For NCAA Regional Run
BOULDER — University of Colorado senior Daniel O'Loughlin is hoping that the fourth time will be the charm after earning an individual berth into NCAA Men's Golf Regional play.
O'Loughlin will compete beginning Monday in the Southwest/Albuquerque regional at the University of New Mexico's Championship Golf Course. He has played the course three times as a Buff in UNM's Tucker Invitational, where he has averaged 72.67 strokes for nine rounds, with his best finish a tie for ninth in 2019 (214, -2).
The top five teams and the top individual not from those schools will advance out of six regionals nationwide to the NCAA Finals, slated for May 28-June 2 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
He is in second go-round as a senior, which many have tagged as being a "super senior" due to the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He earned second-team All-Pac-12 Conference honors for the year, currently owning the eighth-best scoring average in the league with a 71.23 mark. In the most recent individual rankings, he is the No. 105 player in the nation by GolfStat and No. 106 by Golfweek.
It will be his fourth time competing in an NCAA regional, his third as a Buffalo along with when he was a true freshman at McNeese State before transferring to CU in 2017. Is he immune to any nervousness at this point?
"Oh, there will still be a few nerves, and it's good to a have a few," O'Loughlin said. "It is my fifth year and I'm feeling pretty comfortable out there, but there will be that combination of nerves and adrenalin walking up to the first tee, and that's okay."
He's been a model of consistency all spring. All 22 of his rounds have been scored between 67 and 75 (18 from 69 to 73), and in 396 holes overall, he has just five worse than bogey (all doubles). He is coming off a tie for 13th in the Pac-12 Championships, where he was consistent with four subpar rounds (71-70-71-70—282, -6), and is playing his best golf of the spring, as he is a combined 14-under par in his last two events.
"I feel like my whole game has been really solid all semester," he said. "I haven't had any bad tournaments or have made a lot of mistakes. I just need to keep doing what I've been doing, keep focusing on course management and maybe just get a few more putts to drop."
He has nine rounds in regional competition, and his average is a healthy 71.78 (five subpar rounds, low of 68, high of 76). He tied for 38th as a freshman (221 for 54 holes, or 5-over), for 16th as a sophomore (213, -3) and 47th as a junior (212, +2).
"The (UNM) South Course is a great setup for Daniel," CU head coach Roy Edwards said. "He hits the ball high and has good results and experience on the course. (Assistant) Coach (Derek) Tolan will be invaluable as well as he played some of the best golf of his college career at UNM."
O'Loughlin might have one advantage over much of the field. He has played the UNM Championship Course (7,555-yards, par-72) three times as a Buff in UNM's William H. Tucker Invitational, which wasn't held last fall due to the pandemic. He has averaged 72.67 strokes for nine rounds, with his best finish a tie for ninth in 2019 (214, -2) when he recorded two 3-under 69's. He has one other subpar round (71) and one even round effort on the course (with no score higher than a 76).
The only schools in the regional with a full team or individuals who have played the course in the previous three years in addition to host New Mexico are CU, Loyola-Marymount and New Mexico State; NMSU did qualify a full team, LMU two individuals, but only one has played the course and just once at that.
"I know the course pretty well, I've played it enough times so I comfortable with my knowledge of it know what to expect," O'Loughlin said. "But that's not to say it will be easy. It's one of the toughest courses that we play in our rotation every year. You need a lot of good ball-striking out there, but still, the greens are the (course's own) defense. It can expose your faults very fast, so it is definitely an advantage to know the course. Plus, Roy and Derek have played and coached there so many times, it will be great to have both there to bounce ideas off them."
O'Loughlin is the first Buffalo to be selected to play individually twice, as he was also the solo CU performer two years ago, when he tied for 46th in Pullman, Wash., turning in a 68-75-79—212 scorecard (2-over par). He is looking to become the first Buff selected individually to advance to the NCAA Finals; to do so, he needs to be the highest finisher either not attached to one of the five advancing teams as well as defeat four other invited individuals also competing.
The 2020-21 team leader (or tied for the lead) in 15 categories: scoring average, first round average (71.14), middle round average (71.13), top 10 finishes (1), top 20 finishes (4), rounds in the sixties (6), subpar rounds (12), rounds of par or better (13), rounds counting toward team scoring (1.000, 22 of 22), eagles (4), pars (265), percentage of rounds par or better (84.6), jumbo percentage (.227, percentage of strokes over bogey/round), most consecutive holes of par or better (31) and most tournaments with the no holes worse than bogey (4); he is second in birdies (66).
O'Loughlin is the only player in school history with at least two seasons with sub-72.0 stroke averages, and he has recorded three: 71.54 as a sophomore (fourth-best overall), 71.90 as a junior (tied for ninth), 71.65 in first crack as a senior (fifth) and is looking to do it a fourth time this year (the 71.23 mark is sitting in the third spot on CU's all-time best list, so in the end, he will own four of CU's top 10 season averages). It has him in contention to become the school's all-time stroke average leader, as his 71.63 mark is currently ahead of Jeremy Paul, who is in the books with a 71.72 career mark from 2013-17.
Also in school annals, he is third in rounds in the 60s (35), subpar rounds (55) and in rounds of par or better (65); he's fourth in rounds counting toward CU's team score (109 of 115, or 94.8 percent). In 42 career events, he has been under par 19 times and was even-par in two others and is collectively just 3-over par in 120 rounds. He has played 2,160 holes as Buff, and has just 43 worse than bogey (40 doubles, three triples), or 1.99 percent.
To his credit, records are the furthest thing from his mind.
"Honestly, I don't really think about records when I'm out on the course," he said. "They're nice to read about after they've happened, but I'm not consciously concerned about them while playing."
"Daniel has had an outstanding career at CU and has performed at a consistently high level all spring long," Edwards said. "He has shown consistent improvement in his games. He has no weaknesses and I see him as a guy who will continue to get incrementally better as his professional career unfolds. He has a great chance to play golf for a living."
O'Loughlin will tee off at 9:53 a.m. this Monday off the No. 1 tee; the regional features 18 holes for three days, the second round on Tuesday and third and final round Wednesday.