When something happens that’s a bit out of the ordinary, something that is pretty much unexpected, I have a saying. It’s simply, “Go figure!”
After seeing the results of last weekend’s Bandon Dunes Intercollegiate, the Colorado Buffaloes landed that distinction. No other way to describe it, in fact.
In their previous four starts — last two in the fall and first two this spring — the Buffs played like they didn’t know which end of a golf club to hold. They never really sniffed finishing in the top 10.
So what happens in their latest outing at Bandon Dunes? Not only do they win, they’re the only team in the starting field of 18 to break par.
“The guys have been working on being more consistent and generally playing smarter golf than they had been,” said Roy Edwards, in his seventh season at the Colorado helm. “We were never too high or too low. They really did expect to do well despite the last couple of tournaments.
“The guys did a phenomenal job,” Edwards added after the tournament. “They were motivated to come out this week and prove they’re a good team and I feel we definitely did that.”
With four players placing among the top 17 individuals, Colorado finished with a 2-under-par 862 total, including posting its two best single round scores of the season (286-285).
The Buffs finished five shots clear of Fresno State and 11 strokes ahead of Pac-12 power Washington.
Okay, so maybe the overall field wasn’t as strong as a number of other college tournaments, but consider Colorado, No. 79 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings going into the event, defeated eight teams that were ranked better, including the likes of then-No. 3 Washington, No. 14 SMU and No. 49 Oregon.
Early on in the season, Edwards and his Buffs had some pretty high expectations, especially after winning their season-opening event at Air Force and following it up with second-place showings at their own Mark Simpson and the Tucker Invitational.
Then things fell into a major tailspin.
The Buffs placed 12th in the Pac-12 Preview, 55 shots behind winner California, and closed out the fall with another 12th in the 16-team field at the Alister MacKenzie, 53 shots behind again winner Cal.
Things didn’t get much better to start the spring. Colorado was 16th among the 19 teams at the Amer Ari in Hawaii, 47 strokes behind co-champions UCLA and Washington, and just prior to Bandon Dunes, was 15th, or dead last, at The Prestige, 53 shots in back of co-winners Washington and USC.
Talk about a complete turnaround and more importantly, the win enabled Colorado to climb back over the .500 won-lost mark (needed to be considered for an NCAA post-season invitation) at 58-52.
It was the first time Colorado won and defeated a top-five team since 2004 when it won the Western Intercollegiate over No. 4 Georgia Tech and its first against a team ranked third or better since the 1994 NCAA Central Regional, when the Buffs finished second, one spot in front of No. 1 Oklahoma State.
This was just the fourth time in program history the Buffaloes have won two big tournament titles in the same season and the first time they have won one in both the fall and spring. Three of those four times have happened under Edwards’ guidance.
Senior Jason Burstyn paced Colorado’s charge on the Old Macdonald Course at Bandon Dunes, finishing at 2-under 214. He tied for third, four strokes behind medalist Troix Tonkham of Fresno State. It was the seventh time in nine starts he has been the Buffaloes’ low man and marked his third top-five showing of the season.
“I made some pretty good par putt to keep my momentum going and (even though) I had a few three-putts, I made a lot of good lag putts from 50 feet or so,” Burstyn said. “I have a new driver and was able to keep it low, under the wind, and that helped a lot.”
Sophomore David Oraee tied for sixth at 1-under 215, his second-best finish of the season. Freshman Philip Juel-Berg shot even par 216 and tied for ninth, leading the team with 12 birdies. Senior Derek Fribbs finished at 2-over 218 and tied for 17th. Redshirt freshman Drew Trujillo placed 73rd, but his final round 73 was a team counter.
“It’s always great to see your teammates play well and that definitely takes a little pressure off,” Burstyn said. “I’m just proud of everybody.”
This was the seventh tournament win under Edwards, snapping a tie with the late Les Fowler for the second-most among CU coaches; the late Mark Simpson’s teams won 16. Both coached at the school for 29 seasons.
“This was certainly a confidence builder,” said Edwards, whose Buffaloes return to action in two weeks when they journey to California during the school’s spring break to play in the Cal-Irvine Anteater Invitational (March 25-26) and Stanford’s U.S. Intercollegiate (March 28-30). “I think everyone was frustrated because we knew we were a good team, but we just weren’t showing it.
“It shows the resolve of the team,” Edwards said. “It proved that they could come out and beat a lot of high quality teams.”
The Buffs did just that at Bandon Dunes.