After a strong 2013-14 campaign that included a fifth-place finish in last spring’s Mountain West Championships, the CSU men’s golf team is ready to build on that success and assert themselves as a real contender in the conference.
It won’t be easy, but it’s something the players believe can happen, and something that their coach expects.
Despite falling short to New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State, and Air Force, the Rams believe they can compete with anyone in the conference on any given day.
Their first chance against those teams will come when they travel to Colorado Springs to compete in the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational on Sept. 6 and 7. Air Force won the tournament last year while CSU finished in a tie for 12th.
“I put a lot of importance on this first event,” head coach Christian Newton said. “It’s comfortable for us and it feels a lot like home. For us to get off to a good start down there will be really important.”
CSU will be without Parker Edens this year, the man Newton called their “co-MVP” of last season. Senior Cameron Harrell and junior Dom Kieffer are ready to lead by example this season after a summer that saw both qualify for the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
“In the spring, I struggled a lot so having a really good summer helped get me back on track for this season,” Harrell said. “That helped me get my confidence back and I’m feeling really good.”
After they begin the season in Colorado Springs, the Rams will return home for the Ram Master’s Invitational. A field of 15 teams will participate in the 54-hole tournament to be played at the par 70, 7,121-yard Fort Collins Country Club.
CSU has finished 2nd in the tournament for two consecutive years, coming up short by one stroke both times. They are hoping 2014 will be the year they get over the hump.
“(University of) Denver had a really good last round to come back and beat us last year so we’re right in there,” Newton said. “I think if we continue to play how we have at home we’ll be fine this year. We have an advantage with it being in our own backyard.”
Kieffer is not worried about the slim margin by which they were edged out in the past two years. He’s confident in himself and the rest of the team to bring home a first place finish.
“We’re all better than we were last year and the freshmen we have are really talented,” Kieffer said. “If we can just keep improving like that it’s definitely within our reach.”
After the Ram Masters, the team will hit the road to play in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in late August. They will head to Erin Hills, Wisconsin, in September and El Paso, Texas, in October. The team then goes on a three month break from competition before returning in February to play in the John Burns Intercollegiate in Lihu’e, Hawaii.
CSU has four more tournaments after the Hawaii trip in the spring before they travel to Tuscon, Arizona for the Mountain West Conference Championship in May.
Of the schools that placed ahead of them last year, none figure to regress this season. The pressure will be on CSU to take their game to the next level.
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @EmmettCollegian.