On only two days’ rest, the men’s squad hit the road again; this time down in Albuquerque, New Mexico where they competed in the Tucker Invitational hosted by the University of New Mexico. The 54-hole event was held on Sept. 22-23 at the UNM Championship Course, a challenging par 72 layout that plays at a lengthy 7,555 yards.
Head Coach Erik Billinger chose a lineup consisting of seniors Chris Korte (Littleton, Colo.) and Jake Kelley (Littleton, Colo.), and a Sophomore trio of Eric Hagen (Aberdeen, Wash.), Roy Kang (North Vancouver, B.C.) and Isaac Petersilie (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Freshman John Sand (Hoquiam, Wash.) competed as an individual.
Hagen led the way early, jumping out to four under par through his first eight holes, and at one point had made four consecutive birdies. Although he stumbled a bit on the way in, he managed to card a solid two over par 74 in round one. He followed his morning round up with a three over par 75 in the afternoon, and would close the day at five over par. Korte struggled early on shooting a birdie-less four over par in his opening loop, but bounced back nicely in the afternoon with a one over par 73, leaving him at five over par as well after day one of the tournament. The two sat in 33rd on the individual leaderboard and were the best positioned on the team. The youngster, Sand, was able to position himself nicely as well at six over par going into the final day.
As a unit, Denver was in 11th out of 17 competing squads when play ceased after 36 holes, and 26 strokes behind clubhouse leader, the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
“The wind and the course setup were extremely challenging, but we still have one more round to go and we have the opportunity to get some key head-to-head wins against some good teams,” said Billinger Friday afternoon. “Time to build on our positives and go out tomorrow with some determination.”
After the final day, the Pioneers rose one spot on the team leaderboard to finish in the 10th slot. Korte shot a nifty two under par 70 that consisted of three birdies and a lone bogey to close out his weekend. His efforts put him into a tie for 11th individually, and this marks his second consecutive finish just outside the top 10. Hagen shot a Saturday two over par 74 to put him in a tie for 27th, and Kelley, Petersilie and Kang all ended with five over par 77’s and all finished outside the top 50. Sand struggled on his final outing shooting a 12 over par 84, but nonetheless has showed great promise early in his collegiate career.
Brigham Young University came from behind to snag the title, shooting an impressive final round one under par.
Overall, the team has looked balanced in the early going. It will be crucial moving forward that the team continues to receive contributions from its talented underclassmen. They will look to build on their momentum when the team hosts the Paintbrush Invitational on Oct. 9-10 in Parker, Colorado.