CSU falls short of Mountain West championship title

Christian Hedrick

The Colorado State men’s golf team finished in second place at the 2017 Mountain West Men’s Golf Championship, one shot away from the first-place University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a trip to the NCAA regionals.

Over three days and 54 holes at the par-72 7,194 yard OMNI Tuscon National Resort: Catelina Course in Tuscon, Arizona, CSU shot 17-under 847 as a team. The Rams were led by senior Blake Cannon and junior Colton Yates who each shot 5-under 211 and tied for eighth place. Boise State freshman Brian Humphreys had the best individual score of 12-under 204 out of 55 golfers.

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CSU entered the 11-team tournament ranked No. 73 in the nation behind UNLV (No. 16), San Diego State (No. 41) and New Mexico (No. 42) as the fourth seeded team when play began on Friday.

Coming off a sixth-place finish at the Cowboy Classic, in which they struggled to count a fourth score below par, CSU finished the first round in fourth place thanks to four Rams shooting below par.

“We had a great team effort today with four guys shooting below par,” said coach Christian Newton in a statement following the first round. “I think, overall, our ball striking was pretty good and we just need a few guys to get hot with the putter.”

The Rams must have took their coach’s advice after round one because they got hot with the putter and carried their strong team effort into the second round. Led by junior Max Oelfke and his 3-under 69, the entire CSU team shot at, or below par in the second round to move the Rams into first place after 36 holes.

“What a great round by the team today,” Newton said after the second round. “Max’s (Oelfke) 69 was really great as he finally got a few putts to drop.”

CSU’s second round 8-under 280 was the best second round of any team in the tournament, but it only gave them a two-shot edge over Boise State and UNLV heading into the final round. With a trip the NCAA regionals on the line and a number of teams still in the mix, Sunday’s final round was an ultra-competitive 18 holes.

CSU, SDSU and UNLV all had a share of the lead at one point on Sunday. Yates led the Rams in the final round with a 3-under 69, matching Oelfke for the best round out of any Ram in the tournament. Sophomore Jake Staiano shot 1-under 71, but Oelfke couldn’t drop below par and finished the day 1-over 73.

With CSU and UNLV tied atop the leaderboard at 18-under with only one hole remaining, it was up to CSU’s Cannon and UNLV’s John Oda to decide who would send their team to regionals. On the 18th hole, the most challenging hole to make par according to average score, Cannon missed his par putt and Oda sunk his to put UNLV up by one stroke and lock up their second consecutive Mountain West conference title.

“That was definitely a heartbreaker,” Newton said. “I wanted that title for the guys very badly. I hurt for them to come so close.”

The Rams fell just short in qualifying for the NCAA regionals, but their second-place 7-under 847 finish was their best result in the Mountain West Championship since 2010. The Rams hope their strong finish will be enough to earn them an at-large bid to an NCAA regional when teams are selected May 4.

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Collegian sports reporter Christian Headrick can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @christianhCSU