CSU men’s golf finishes second in Mountain West Championship

Mack Beaulieu

The Colorado State men’s golf team finished second in the Mountain West Championship over the weekend behind strong performances from their upperclassmen. The runner-up finish marks the second consecutive year the Rams fell just short in the conference tournament.

The Rams were out front from the early going of the tournament as AJ Ott had the best round of his collegiate career with a 6-under 66 to help the team end the day tied for first. Max Oelfke and Jake Staiano led the team from there with Oelfke making a comeback and Staiano playing solid throughout.

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The individual leader after round one, Ott hit for par through the tournament’s first four holes, but jumped to the head of the tournament over the next five with two birdies and an eagle to bring himself to 4-under. Two more birdies on the day would drop his score to six under.

“Obviously AJ’s 66 was really special,” coach Christian Newton said. “We know AJ’s capable of that kind of golf and it’s awesome to see him do that.”

Jake Staiano had his first of three strong days for the Rams, shooting a 1-under 71, and freshmen Jack Ainscough and Parathakorn Suyasri both had decent outings, but Oelfke had an off round with a 4-over 76. However, with at least three players who could reasonably expect to have better rounds, the Rams had to feel good about their three-way tie for first at 4-under 284.

“For us it was just that we had to treat it like any other tournament and not try and do anything special,” Newton said. “For these guys their normal is good enough to compete and to compete to win, so we were just trying to make sure we didn’t do anything special that we haven’t done all year.”

After bogeying his first hole of the day, Oelfke came back in the second round on Saturday to lead the team with a 4-under 68. He brought himself back to par and helped the Rams stay near the top as the field started to break up. Staiano continued his strong play, finishing the day at par and putting himself in ninth place behind Ott, who shot 1-over in the round to finish the day in third.

“(Oelfke) didn’t have a very good first day and the golf course was really set up well for him,” Newton said. “I was expecting good things out of Max this week and I knew he was gonna come out and play well the next two days.”

Ainscough and Suyasri each fell off a little on the second day as they shot 6- and 10-over, respectively. Going into the final round the Rams found themselves a comfortable five strokes ahead of third place and behind by the same margin to UNLV.

“It was a hard golf course and Jack and Poon definitely didn’t have their best week,” Newton said. “But they never gave up and they were able to chip in good rounds that were really important to us.”

Their positioning didn’t change much in the third round as UNLV took a commanding lead and the Rams distanced themselves further from third place University of Nevada.

Staiano completed the task of shooting par or better in every round to finish tied with Ott and Oelfke at 1-under 215 for fifth place. The Rams’ pair of freshmen each came back from difficult second rounds to help keep second place for the team.

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The Rams finished at 3-over 867 and eleven strokes behind UNLV, but they have bigger concerns going forward.

“If you have three guys in the top five, you feel like you’re going to win,” Newton said. “Overall, real happy about the guys and their play… I’m just excited to be headed to the NCAA postseason.”

Currently ranked No. 41 in the nation, the Rams are considered a lock for the NCAA regionals. Should they be selected, they will play May 14-16.

Mack Beaulieu is a sports reporter for the Collegian and can be reached online at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Macknz_James