BOULDER — As expected, the University of Colorado men’s golf team was invited to the NCAA Championships for the second straight season Monday, as the Buffaloes will participate in the Southeast/Auburn Regional which begins next Thursday, May 15.
Colorado, ranked No. 48 in the nation (GolfStat; No. 53 Golfweek) is the No. 8 seed in the field and will be looking to advance to the NCAA Championship Finals for the first time since 2002.
The Buffs are coming off a fourth place finish in the Pac-12 Championships, their second best finish in a conference meet in the last decade. Within that performance, Colorado posted the second best score over the last 36 holes to only No. 10 Washington, which finished second in the meet, as the Buffaloes bested two No. 1 regional seeds in Stanford (the Pac-12 champ) and California over those final two rounds.
“We were excited when our name came up to go to Auburn,” CU head coach Roy Edwards said. “There are a lot great teams in that regional, though we relished the opportunity to go wherever to compete. I think the way the regionals work out every year is always interesting because you go to locations and see teams you don’t always see every year.”
The last two national champions, Alabama and Texas, are in the 14-team field that will compete at Auburn University Golf Club, which boasts a 7,326-yard, par-72 configuration. The Crimson Tide are the defending national champions and are the nation’s top-ranked team and the No. 1 seed, while the Longhorns were the 2012 titlists, are ranked No. 13 and are the No. 3 seed. No. 12 Virginia Tech is the No. 2 seed.
“It’s the unknown, it adds to the anticipation,” Edwards said. “Unless you’re hosting, you really don’t know where you’re going to go, and quite often you’ll be lining up against teams you haven’t seen. It’s really kind of cool and unique in that there is no other tournament like this the rest of the year.”
Other schools in field, in seeded order from four through 14 are: Auburn, New Mexico, Brigham Young, Kennesaw State, Colorado, Louisville, UNC-Greensboro, UC Davis, Sam Houston State, St. John’s and Alabama State. The Buffs are 2-7-1 against the field in tournament play this season, squaring off against only five of the other 13 progams.
Roy has selected his squad for the regional, and it includes junior David Oraee, sophomore Philip Juel-Berg and three freshmen, Ethan Freeman and identical twins Jeremy and Yannik Paul. It will be the first time in 18 regional appearances that Colorado will have as many as three freshmen competing, but this group also happens to be the nation’s No. 1-performing freshman class according to GolfStat.
Jeremy Paul leads the team in stroke average with a 72.35 figure, having played in all 11 tournaments this season, as has Juel-Berg (72.85) and Oraee (73.03). Yannik Paul sports a 72.94 stroke norm while playing in 10 meets, while Freeman rounds out the group at 74.56, as he’s played in five.
Five individuals from schools that did not advance as a team will also compete at Auburn, thus 75 total players will be in the field. Nationally, 81 teams and 45 individuals qualified for the postseason, with 12 teams from the Southeastern Conference leading the way, followed by the Pac-12 with eight schools (all eight earned top eight seeds); the conference also sent three individuals forward.
There are six regional sites and those competing will play 54 holes with the top five teams and top two individuals who are not members of those squads earning the right to advance to the NCAA Championship Finals. Those are scheduled for May 23-28 in Hutchinson, Kan.