Sophomore Jake Staiano led the Colorado State men’s golf team to a sixth place finish at the Cowboy Classic in Chandler, Arizona by shooting 7-under 209 over 54 holes, the fifth best score overall.
CSU entered the 18-team tournament hosted by the University of Wyoming as the 72nd ranked team in the country, behind only Kansas (No. 33) as the top ranked team competing in the Classic, according to Golfweek.
Despite their strong ranking, the Rams got off to a slow start at the desert style par-72 7,334-yard Whirlwind Golf Club: Cattail Course. As a team, CSU shot 6-over 294 to put themselves in a three-way tie for 12th place at the end of round one.
Staiano shot 2-under 70 in the first round, but the rest of the Rams struggled to shoot below par in the first 18 holes. In the second round junior Colton Yates led the team with eight birdies and a four-under 68, the best round out of any Ram at the tournament and a 13 shot improvement from his first round nine-over 81.
CSU finished the second round 4-under 284, shaving 10 strokes off their first round score to put them in sixth place. CSU had the greatest improvement of any team from round one to two, but inconsistency in the first round still cost them in the leaderboard.
“We didn’t get off to a great start,” coach Christian Newton said in a statement. “Any time you count a 78 is going to hurt. But the boys responded great in the afternoon and moved up six spots.”
Staiano followed up his first round 2-under 70 with the same score in the second round to position himself in fifth place for the final round. Staiano hung onto his fifth place position in the leaderboard by sinking three birdies and no bogies for a third round 3-under 69.
Despite leading the Rams in scoring and going on a 29-hole streak without a bogey, his coach believes he could have hit the ball even better.
“Jake had a great week,” Newton said. “He is maturing each event. He is learning to post good scores without having his best ball striking.”
Senior Blake Cannon and junior Max Oelfke were right behind Staiano in the third round, each posting a 2-under 70. But the Rams struggled to find a quality fourth score and wouldn’t advance from sixth place in the leaderboard.
“We had great rounds out of three guys today,” Newton said. “The fourth score held us back from being able to move up the leaderboard.”
The Rams finished the tournament 2-over 866, three shots ahead of seventh place Wichita State and 23 shots behind first place UC Santa Barbara. CSU sunk the third most birdies of any team with 50, but were held back making only 159 pars.
Staiano ended the event three strokes behind first place Zach Smith of UC Santa Barbara, higher than any other ram. Cannon clawed his way into a tie for 17th after his strong final round, Oelfke placed 24th and independent A.J. Ott finished in 22nd out of 111 total golfers.
Staiano’s consistent play led the Rams at the Cowboy classic, but coach Newton is encouraged by the strong finish of his teammates heading into the Mountain West Championship April 21-23.
“Blake (Cannon) and Max (Oelfke) also had good finishes, which is great see heading into the Mountain West Championship,” Newton said.
Collegian sports reporter Christian Headrick can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @christianhCSU