Professional golfer Sergio Garcia may have claimed his first major championship victory on April 9 in a thrilling finish at The Masters, but the real excitement lay in the anticipation of the DU men’s golf squad competing at the Wyoming Cowboy Classic on April 10-11.
The Pioneers traveled south into the Sonoran Desert to the Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Arizona, where the tournament was played on the lengthy Cattail Course of 7,334 yards. Par for the course was 72.
The first two rounds of the 54-hole event took place on Monday, April 10, and DU was in a tie for 12th when play ceased. The team shot a combined score of 587 (290-297), 11-over par, and were 20 strokes behind Long Beach State who sat atop the leaderboard at 9-under par.
Junior Chris Korte (Littleton, Colorado) and Freshman Eric Hagan (Aberdeen, Washington) posted the low rounds of the day for the squad. Shooting a pair of impressive two-under par 70s in the morning round also included a hole-in-one on the par-three 15th hole for Korte. Korte would unfortunately not be able to complete his afternoon round due to illness, and Hagan would follow up his morning round with an afternoon three-over par 75, leaving him at one-over going into the final loop.
Also contributing on Monday was Junior Jake Kelley (Littleton, Colorado), who carded 2-over par (73-73) through day one of the tournament.
“This morning, we had two solid rounds of 70, two-under-par and 73, and we were a fourth score away from being in the lead,” Head Coach Erik Billinger said.
Kelley shot the low round of the day for the Pios on Tuesday, posting a one-under par 71 and finishing in a tie for 24th on the individual leaderboard, the highest individual finish on the team. He was assisted by Korte, who rebounded from an illness with a stellar even par 72. Senior Petter Mikalsen (Stavanger, Norway) fired one-over par 73 in the final round.
These efforts would allow Denver to climb up the team leaderboard two spots and into solo 10th. Their final team score was a 14-over par 878 (290-297-291), 35 strokes behind winner UC Santa Barbara, who would finish up at 21-under par.
“Lots of positives to take from this week,” Billinger said after the tournament. “I am proud of Jake and Eric for stepping up. Each player has a few things they need to continue to work on in order for this team to play up to its potential. A positive attitude and lots of hard work is what we are going to do.”
Denver remains the team with the lowest scoring average in the Summit League standings with an average of 294.6 strokes per round. This average is almost an entire stroke better than that of South Dakota, who is the closest to DU in the standings at 295.9 strokes per round.
The Pioneers will be back on the course on April 15 at the Hawkeye Invitational in Iowa City.