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Sports / Recreation

Unheralded men's golf team earns NCAA berth

May 24, 2011
By Tony Phifer

The CSU men's golf team came from nowhere over the weekend to finish second at the NCAA Colorado Regional and earn a berth in the upcoming NCAA Championships.

CSU golf coach Jamie Bermel got an ice water bath from his players Saturday after the Rams clinched a berth in the upcoming NCAA Championships.The CSU men’s golf team finished in second place Saturday at the NCAA Colorado Regional, earning the second NCAA Championship berth in school history.

The Rams, who were thought to be in a rebuilding year, came into the regional tournament at Colorado National Golf Club in Erie as the No. 11 seed among 15 teams. But the Rams played their best golf when it mattered most, fighting through rain and cold to earn one of five qualifying spots for the upcoming NCAA Championships in Stillwater, Okla. CSU last played in the NCAA Championships in 1999.

“We came in with no expectations as the No. 11 seed, so our guys were really relaxed,” said CSU coach Jamie Bermel, who finally got his first NCAA berth after numerous close calls during his 12 years with the Rams. “There were a lot of other teams who were concerned about the weather and playing at high altitude, but our guys were pretty familiar with the course and they know how to play at high altitude. You couldn’t have scripted it any better.”

Total team effort

The Rams, who finished at 13-under par for the 54-hole tournament, knocked off several higher-ranked teams to earn their NCAA berth. Top-ranked Oklahoma State was the runaway winner at minus-31 but the Rams, who were in sixth place heading into the final round, seized their berth with solid team play.

“Everyone did their part and played well when we needed them to play well,” Bermel said. “It was really gratifying. We shot 9-under on the final day and didn’t even use our top player’s score. That’s pretty special.”

Brown's up-and-down tournament

The format calls for teams to utilize five players, counting the top four individual scores each day. CSU displayed great balance each day, with all five players contributing at least one score to the final total.

CSU’s Zahkai Brown probably had the most unusual performance of anyone at the tournament. The junior from Arvada tied the course record in the opening round Thursday with a 7-under 65, only to struggle to a 10-over 82 on Friday. Saturday, he returned to form and delivered a 3-under 69 – CSU’s best score that day.

“Zahkai played 45 holes in 9-under par and the other 9 holes in 9-over par,” Bermel said. “That’s golf, sometimes. But he really came through when we needed him.”

No pressure

The Rams depart this weekend for Oklahoma to begin preparations for the NCAA Championships, which begin May 31 and are hosted by Oklahoma State at Karsten Creek Golf Club. The six-day tournament features 54 holes of stroke play over three days, with the top eight teams advancing to match play for the final three days.

Once again, the Rams will enter the tournament as decided underdogs. They are the No. 30 seed out of – you guessed it – 30 teams in the NCAA field.

“There are no expectations for us,” Bermel said. “I’m sure a lot of the teams think we just got lucky to get here, but the good news is that we still get to tee it up and see how we can do. That’s a pretty good feeling.”