Colorado State men end fall ranked 18th – and they’re hungry for more

Colorado State Athletics

Colorado State men end fall ranked 18th – and they’re hungry for more

Men

Colorado State men end fall ranked 18th – and they’re hungry for more

Colorado State coach Christian Newton and his players don’t set goals like most teams. There is no list. There is no bulletin board. Just one word for each player and coach.

Among the words: Believe. Commitment. Process. Patience. Desire. Mark 10:45.

“All nine of the players, they all have their one-word goal,” Newton said. “Everybody knows what we’re trying to do; we’re trying to advance to the national championship. None of that’s a secret. … But each word, they all mean different things to different guys.”

For Newton, his word is “serve.”

“It’s a daily reminder of what I’m here to do, and I’m here to serve these nine young men and to try to help them get better in all the different facets of what we’re doing – golf course, life and school.”

On the course, the Rams, now in their sixth season under Newton, are excelling. After posting a victory and two other top-3 finishes in four events this fall, they enter the spring ranked 18th by Golfweek. In Colorado State’s five previous seasons, it had never ended the year ranked better than 61st.

Even more impressive: Four Rams rank among the nation’s top 200 individuals, including sophomore A.J. Ott, who improved his scoring average from 75.15 as a freshman to 70.75 this season.

“The last few years I think people have kind of seen CSU as a program that’s got some good players but can never really put it all together,” sophomore A.J. Ott said. “And I think now we’re starting to realize that we can really go out and win every week.”

Said Newton: “In the past we shied away from rankings, but now we’re embracing it. … I told the guys, ‘There’s a target on your back now. You’re no longer the hunter; you’re the hunted.’”

It wasn’t always that way. Before Newton arrived, Colorado State had just one NCAA Championship appearance and won only two Mountain West Conference titles. The Rams have not qualified for nationals under Newton, but that could change this season.

Last spring the team finished second at the Mountain West Championship, a shot behind UNLV, which went on to make match play at the NCAA Championship.

“I remember watching UNLV make the final eight and thinking, ‘Man, we could be out there right now,’” Ott said. “… We’ve all carried that into this year, knowing that we’re good enough to be a top-20 or even, I think, a top-10 team.”

At its fall finale, the St. Mary’s Invitational, Colorado State finished behind only national powers USC and Stanford. And in Golfweek’s team rankings, the Rams are a spot ahead of Texas, four ahead of Illinois and at least 15 ahead of South Carolina, Arizona State and Florida State.

But this Colorado State team doesn’t just have confidence and talent, it also has depth and experience. The starting lineup includes seniors Max Oelfke (156 in Golfweek ranking) and Colton Yates (193), and junior Jake Staiano (181).

That explains why Newton’s bunch isn’t celebrating anything yet.

“We’re off to a nice start, but we’ve only played 40 percent of the season,” Newton said. “… I don’t think this group is satisfied by any stretch of the imagination.”

A new word: hungry.

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