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Connor Jones headlines as CSU men’s golf tees off 2023 season

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Collegian | Ava Kerzic

The 2023-24 men’s golf season officially teed off this week as Colorado State hosted the first tournament of the year, the Ram Masters Invitational. The tournament featured 12 schools aside from CSU. It was played in a shotgun format over the course of Wednesday and Thursday.

Fifth-year senior Connor Jones was absolutely dominant throughout all three rounds of the opening tournament. Overall, Jones shot 13 under at 197 — enough for him to place first in the overall individual standings. Jones also set a new tournament record by 2 strokes.

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In round one, he shot a 64 while accumulating six birdies. Jones then put up a 65 in the second round, highlighted by an eagle on hole seven. On Thursday, he capped off a commanding victory by shooting a 68 in round three.

“He is a tenacious worker,” head coach Michael Wilson said. “He is trying to play at the next level. He has really worked hard on his putting. That was kind of a focus for him this off-season. He typically is a really strong ball striker.”

Jones, who grew up in Colorado, had the opportunity to kick off his season on his home turf and used it to his advantage.

“I feel really comfortable,” Jones said. “I’m from Denver, so fully comfortable in the altitude, the weather and the grass. I just feel comfortable sleeping in my own bed.”

Throughout the tournament, Jones and his teammates were in a constant battle with the Long Beach State 49ers, led by Jack Cantlay, little brother to professional golfer Patrick Cantlay. Both squads were tied for the lead after Wednesday’s rounds, but the 49ers battled in the final and came out on top of the Rams.

“It’s kind of a bummer not to get the win as a team, but there are definitely some bright spots,” Jones said. “Jake (Rodgers) is a really really good player, and we’re excited to have him this year. Christoph (Bleier) also played great today. It sucks we didn’t come on top, but we still have a very good team this year.”

Along with Jones, Jake Rodgers (T7, -1) and Christoph Bleier (T4, -3) placed within the top 10. Rodgers, a first-year making his college debut, was praised by his coach and teammates for his performance in the Ram Masters Invitational.

“Our guys fought hard,” Wilson said. “(Bleier) had a really good back nine. (Jones) played really solid. Freshman Jake Rodgers is going to be really special. He played some really nice golf for the first tournament.”

Wilson and his team look to use the loss as a way to learn and adjust as the season officially is underway.

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“This is the first time we lost the event (as a team),” Wilson said. “All good streaks come to an end but our guys have something to build on throughout the year and we did a lot of good things.”

The CSU men’s golf team will look to bounce back as they head to Colorado Springs, Colorado, playing Sept. 10-12 in the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational hosted by Air Force. Last season, the Rams won the tournament.

Reach Ben Fairly at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @benjaminfairly.

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