BOULDER - The University of Colorado men's golf team will officially open major tournament play for the 2012-13 season Sunday in the 44th Annual Gene Miranda Air Force Falcon Invitational.
The Buffaloes tuned up for the event in the Ballyneal Challenge this past Tuesday, an individual tournament that featured players from just CU and Air Force at the highly acclaimed Ballyneal Golf Club in Holyoke. Colorado players took the top seven places in the 15-man field.
Roy Edwards is entering his seventh season as head coach of the Buffaloes, and this could shape up to be one of his, if not the, best teams in Boulder. This squad has a solid blend of senior leadership in Jason Burstyn, Derek Fribbs and Beau Schoolcraft with a talented wave of youth in the wings ready to challenge for those spots, led by sophomore David Oraee.
All four will compete Sunday and Monday in the 54-hole event at the USAFA's Eisenhower Blue Golf Course, a 7,363-yard, par-72 layout designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones. The field includes 15 teams, as CU and host Air Force will be joined by Coastal Carolina, Colorado State, CU-Colorado Springs, Kansas, New Mexico State, Northern Colorado, Southern Utah, UNLV, Utah, Utah State, UTEP, Weber State and Wyoming.
Burstyn won the Ballyneal Challenge with a 68-70-138 (4-under) performance, edging his new teammate, freshman Philip Juel-Berg (70-69-139), a late letter-of-intent signee in July; Oraee took third. Juel-Berg will join the aforementioned quartet as the five scorers for the Buffaloes this weekend.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Engel and true frosh Ross Thornton will play as individuals in the meet; Engel finished fourth at Ballyneal but Thornton did not play and will thus be making his college debut.
"We are very excited to get the season going with our first major tournament," Edwards said. "It was a good start at Ballyneal and we expect to continue that this week at the Air Force Academy. The Academy and Eisenhower Golf Club are two very special places and favorites of the team. I know the guys are very motivated to play well this year. If we work every day to get better then we have a great shot at doing that."
In the 2011 Falcon, UNLV defeated the Buffaloes on the first playoff hole to win the trophy, though officially both tied for the title. The Buffs went on to be ranked as high as No. 10 in the fall but eventually were passed over for an at-large berth in the NCAA Championships, another factor motivating this year's team. It will also be CU's second year as a member of the Pac-12, the nation's top collegiate golfing conference; the Buffs finished a respectable eighth last spring behind six teams ranked in the top 25 and the host, Oregon State.