Rams play well at Kissimmee Regional, can’t advance

Mack Beaulieu

The Colorado State men’s golf team wrapped up its first NCAA tournament in six years on Wednesday with a seventh-place finish at the Austin regional. Despite playing well and competing with some of the nation’s top teams, the eighth-seeded Rams couldn’t pull out a top-five finish in order to advance.

CSU golfer Max Oelfke hits on fairway
Senior Max Oelfke finishes a swing during the 2018 Mountain West Championships at the Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Washington. (Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos)

As a team, the Rams were consistently solid throughout the lineup, with two Rams finishing at 4-under 212 and the other three finishing at par. If not for a slow start, the Rams may have been headed to the championship round.

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“For the most part they all looked really good this week,” Coach Christian Newton said. “They were excited to have finals over with. I think they were happy to get out of class and focus on golf.”

The Rams started off somewhat slow in the tournament, posting an even par on the first day. As solid as that might be in some tournaments, it put the Rams in ninth among some of the nation’s best at the Kissimmee regional.

While dealing with a rainy afternoon, three of the Rams had their worst round of the tournament with only Jake Staiano and AJ Ott shooting under par. Playing in a considerably wetter climate than they’re used to, the Rams were fortunate to not have done worse, but they could’ve used a few less swings on the scorecard by the time the regional wrapped up. Despite the struggles, it could have possibly been worse.

“We were probably a little more fortunate (than other teams),” Newton said. “All of our guys were inside when they suspended play… we were fortunate where we started.” 

The second round, played on Tuesday, was one of the best NCAA tournament rounds the Rams have ever had as the team shot an 11-under 277. It was the Rams second best regional score ever and all four of the counted scores came in under par. The Rams were led by Staiano and Jack Ainscough, who both posted 4-under 68’s for the round. Max Oelfke came in at 2-under and Parathakorn Suyasri shot a 1-under par to round out the Rams who counted to the team’s score.

Suyasri had struggled in a few of his recent tournaments, but the freshman from Thailand came up big to be scored in two of the regionals three rounds.

“You know, he’s still only 17 and he’s a long way from home,” Newton said. “So for (Suyasri) especially, it was nice to see him rebound and close out the year.”

Staiano climbed as high as sixth on the overall leaderboard, with his eagle and four birdies on the second day, while the Rams got themselves into a tie for fifth by the end of the round.

Day three fell somewhere in between for the Rams, as they bettered their team score by another five strokes, but after getting as high as fourth the Rams ran into a harder portion of the course.

Oelfke led the team in what will be his last performance as a CSU Ram. The senior shot a 3-under 69 in his last performance. The round included a record-setting eagle to give Oelfke the most career eagles by a CSU Ram.

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“Max has been great, he kind of elevated the bar four years ago and brought a lot to the team,” Newton said. “Everyone else will have to get a little better (next year) to make up for his score.”

Playing in a shotgun start, the Rams put up solid scores for the round with only one player finishing above par. Yet, when the Rams came to the end of their round, in the middle of the front nine, basically everyone struggled. The team finished 3-over on each of the course’s fifth and seventh hole.

“We played in a shotgun start, so we finished in an area where you’re going to make some bogeys,” Newton said. “We had a shot, but we didn’t play that closing stretch as well as we needed to.”

Had the Rams been able to put together a similar performance on the first day as they did on either of the last two days, they’d probably be playing in the championship round this coming week. But, they’ll settle for what was one of their best seasons ever as they had their third best regional score at 16-under 848, finishing four strokes behind fifth-place Kent State University and 26 behind the regional winner, Florida.

I couldn’t be more proud. It was a tough regional, we had a real chance. So there’s no disappointment here.” Coach Christian Newton

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Newton said. “It was a tough regional, we had a real chance. So there’s no disappointment here … some of the guys were pretty gut wrenched so I think we’ll learn something, learn from the pressure. At the end, we just couldn’t quite close it out.”

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