Golfers Finish Seventh At Air Force; Hughes Wins GMFI Side Event
USAFA, Colo. — The University of Colorado men's golf team played short-handed in the final round here Sunday but still managed to finish seventh in the 52nd Annual Gene Miranda Air Force Falcon Invitational, the Buffaloes first competition of the 2021-22 season.
But in a "side" event, the GMFI (Gene Miranda-Falcon Individual), redshirt freshman Jack Hughes, playing in his first collegiate event, recorded a one-shot victory in claiming medalist honors.
UC Davis left everyone else behind in claiming the team title with a 33-under par 831 total, as the Aggies posted three of the top four team scores over the three days. Nevada was a distant second at 9-under 855, with Denver (856), Weber State (859) and Wyoming (861) rounding out the top five; the quintet were the only teams under par.
The youngest CU lineup to ever play in a major tournament – one junior and four true freshmen – had to go at it Sunday with the lone veteran, junior John Paterson. He started to feel the effects on some kind of illness on Saturday, and tried to make a go of it Sunday but was too weak to go ahead and tee off. That left the four true rookies to fend for themselves as all four scores would count toward CU's team total.
How did they respond? They tied Denver for the fourth-lowest score in the final round of the 21 teams here – an even par 288, and that was with one player shooting eight over par. The remaining trio were all under par, posting three of the day's 14 scores of 70 or better, and two of the five in the 60s when the average score for the 124-man field was 74.2. In the end, only CU and UC Davis had three players finish among the top 15.
The Buffs wound up in seventh place with a 2-over 866 score.
Leading the way of the wide-eyed freshmen was Dylan McDermott, who fashioned a 3-under 69 Sunday to close with a 4-under 212 score, tying him for eighth place. He got off to a rough start in Friday's first round on the Eisenhower Blue Course (7,541-yard, par-72), standing at 5-over par through 15 holes. He then went on a tear, playing his next 34 holes at par or better (nine birdies, 25 pars), the longest such streak by a Buff in recent memory. He finished up with 10 birdies and 39 pars (second most in the field) with just four bogeys and a double his first time as a collegian; he had four birds and 13 pars with just a single bogey Sunday. He played the par-3's at 1-over, the par-4's even and the par-5's at 5-under.
Dylan was just spectacular from the end of his first round through today," CU head coach Roy Edwards said. "He looked like a senior out there, in full control of his game. It's impressive for anyone to start a tournament that poorly, and then to finish that much under par and that high overall in the standings. And even more so accomplishing that as a freshman in his first tournament, especially on this tough of a golf course."
Justin Biwer had a fine performance his first time out, which followed an outstanding summer on the amateur circuit. He also closed with a 3-under 69 and placed 13th with a 3-under 213 total. He tied for a team-high five birdies with 11 pars and two bogeys in the final round, with his 12 birdies a team best for the weekend, tied for 12th-most in the field. He also played the par-3's collectively at 1 (tied for eighth overall) and the par-5's at 6-under, 11th best.
Frederik Eisenbeis tied for 14th, closing with a 2-under 70 that gave him an overall 2-under 214 total. He scored CU's lone eagle in the meet Sunday (a three on the par-5 ninth hole), and had three birdies and 11 pars. He played the 30 par-4 holes combined at 2-under, which was sixth best among all the players here.
"Obviously a really unique day today and tournament with John being out sick," Edwards said. "Dylan, Justin and Frederik did a great job keeping us around par all day, and I'm really proud how they played. UC Davis played lights out – they are one of the oldest and most experienced teams in the country and they showed that here.
The remaining frosh, Jack Holland, struggled for a third straight day, but mostly over the first nine holes. He wrapped things up with an 80, though he had matched Biwer with a team-high five birdies. He tied for 98th overall with a 21-over par 237 total, as he was 18-over combined on his first nine holes each day, only to rally and play the second nine at just 3-over (and within that, playing the last six each day a combined 5-under).
Paterson had entered the day tied for 25th with a 3-over par 73-74—147 scorecard.
"Losing a player the caliber of John was a big challenge," Edwards noted. "I was really proud of the four freshman going out there today and playing with that added pressure. Jack was off his game again, but he never lost his focus and rallied to have another nice finish. We just need to get him off to a much better start and he'll be fine, but we can't have to count that high of score and we have to eliminate it going forward."
UC Davis' Thomas Hutchinson cruised to medalist honors, winning by five strokes over two players with a 15-under par 201 total. A second round 62 distanced him from the pack.
Hughes, playing with as much pressure as can be trying to win the first time out of the gate, recorded the fourth-best score in the 45-man field – a 2-under par 70 – to keep the field at a distance. He finished up with a 7-under par 209 on the 6,510-yard, par-72 Eisenhower Silver Course and edged San Jose State's Vijay Srinivasan by a single stroke. The Silver Course also played tough Sunday, with the average final round score of 75.0.
Hughes becomes the fourth CU freshman in school history to win a collegiate tournament, and just the second to do so in his first college event, joining Tobias Forsgren, who won the Colorado State Invitational in the fall of 1999. Jeremy Paul (2014 Oregon Duck Invitational) and Victor Bjorlow (2017 Colorado Mines Writz Invitational) were the other two to win as freshmen, each doing so in the spring.
In fact, all four freshmen posted the top four scores by a CU player in their first collegiate tournament:
LOW SCORE IN RELATION TO PAR / FIRST CU & COLLEGIATE TOURNAMENT
|*Jack Hughes, 2021 AFA GMFI Individual||74-65-70—209||-7||1st|
|Dylan McDermott, 2021 AFA Miranda Invitational||77-66-69—212||-4||t-8th|
|Justin Biwer, 2021 AFA Miranda Invitational||73-71-69—213||-3||13th|
|Derek Tolan, 2005 UNM Tucker Invitational||71-71-72—214||-2||t-8th|
|*Sebastian Heisele, 2008 DU-Ron Moore Invitational||67-73-74—214||-2||14th|
|*Canon Olkowski, 2021 Prestige at PGA West||72-71-71—214||-2||t-14th|
|Frederik Eisenbeis, 2021 AFA Miranda Invitational||74-70-70—214||-2||t-14th|
|*Ethan Freeman, 2013 AFA Miranda Invitational||73-73-69—215||-1||t-10th|
|*Trevor Olkowski, 2017 AFA Miranda Invitational||72-74-70—216||E||t-29th|
|Yannik Paul, 2013 AFA Miranda Invitational||75-71-71—217||+1||t-16th|
|Morton Toft Hansen, 2016 AFA Miranda Invitational||74-70-74—218||+2||t-10th|
*—played as an individual.
"Jack was the last guy selected to make the trip here," Edwards said. "To come in and to win your first college tournament was really taking advantage of the opportunity in front of him. He had to sleep on the lead last night (he was the co-leader through 36 holes), and play with it all day. So to pull off a win when playing in your first ever event on this level is really impressive."
Two other Buffaloes competed in the GMFI, both tying for 10th place with 5-over par 221 totals: sophomore Adam Matteson (74-71-76—221) and Kristoffer Max (74-74-73).
The Buffaloes return to action as a full team in two weeks at New Mexico's Tucker Invitational, and then will turn around two days later and host the Mark Simpson-CU Invitational. Between now and then, two Buffs will participate in Colorado's State's Ram Masters Invitational next week.
GMFI INDIVIDUAL EVENT
|1.||Thomas Hutchinson, UC Davis||68-62-71—201|
|T2.||Blake Brothers, CSU-Northridge||69-66-71—206|
|T2.||Reese Fisher, Weber State||71-68-67—206|
|4.||Greg Yellin, UTEP||67-68-72—207|
|T5.||Jackson Solem, Denver||66-70-72—208|
|T5.||Mark Stephens, UC Davis||72-65-71—208|
|6.||San Jose State||283-283-299—865|
|11.||New Mexico State||300-286-292—878|