Feb. 15, 2006
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The 2005-06 Wyoming Cowboy golf team is comprised mainly of upperclassmen who have played numerous rounds of college golf, are hard-working on the course and off, and have taken ownership of a program and system that head coach Joe Jensen has been preaching for five years. Jensen's message: Challenge yourselves, put forth the effort, invest yourselves in the team and you will see results.
Jensen and his team have set a high standard for themselves this season; qualifying for the NCAA Regional Tournament. Given the ability of four returning letterwinners, two additional redshirt seniors with a wealth of experience and a freshman who has immediately made an impact on the team, the Cowboys' goal is a realistic one.
"This group has been with me for awhile and every year we've gotten a little better," said Jensen. "Our goal this season has been to get through the fall with some good rounds, then play our best golf in the spring and get to Regionals. I was encouraged this fall because the mistakes we made were correctable. It was more about the mental than the physical, and we beat ourselves versus someone else beating us. We had some decent finishes against good competition knowing that we didn't play our best. Now we're going to ask these kids to take it up a notch."
Five seniors make up the vast majority of Wyoming's roster and the success of the team will rest largely on their shoulders. In his fifth season with the program, co-captain Eric Baily will be asked to continue to improve following a junior year that saw him post an event runner-up individual finish. The other Cowboy captain, Dan Silva, was Wyoming's stroke leader in 2004-05 and hopes to put a disappointing fall season behind him and provide steady play this spring. Matthew Brunk has returned from a redshirt year due to injury and is a proven performer in the Mountain West Conference. Jonathan Shuss is an experienced college golfer and could step into the Cowboy lineup and contribute at any point. Niel King will redshirt this season.
"This team has some leadership in it's seniors," according to Jensen. "Eric is a player who if we get comfortable can really go on a run. I expect he'll play well this spring. Dan put a lot of pressure on himself this fall and it showed, but played solid in our last event in Hawaii. He is a leader of this team on the course and in the classroom as an All-American Scholar. It's great to have Matthew back. He's solid and will be motivated to come out and play well this spring. Jonathan will have every chance to earn a spot this spring and he can certainly contribute. Niel will benefit from a redshirt year to get better in school and on the course."
Leading the Cowboys in the fall of '05 was junior Jeff Franks. Franks paced the team with a stroke average of 73.67. Always near the top of the leaderboard, Franks won the Air Force Invitational in 2004 and has lowered his scoring average by over two full strokes since his freshman season.
"Jeff manufactures rounds," said Jensen. "He is a streaky player and we just need to clean up the extremes. He plays with passion and can really dig himself out of a hole. Having won a college tournament shows that Jeff can play unbelievable golf in an event."
The lone newcomer to the Cowboy team is freshman Corey Steger. Steger stepped right in to the Wyoming top five and shot some key low rounds for the Pokes during the fall season.
"Corey is sneaky solid," observes Jensen. "He had some good rounds and is getting comfortable with Laramie and the team. We just want him to continue to be solid."
A staple for the Cowboy team during the Jensen era has been the difficult tournament schedule that Wyoming plays. Each season Jensen strives to have the Pokes play the highest level of competition possible. Among the five events UW participated in this past fall were the nationally prominent Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Hawaii Fall Intercollegiate. The Cowboys have a full spring slate in 2006 with seven tournaments on the schedule. Highlighting Wyoming's travels will be trips to the Houston All-American and to Eugene, Oregon for the Duck Invitational. In addition to these will be the fourth annual UW/Cleveland Golf Cowboy Classic, an increasingly high quality tournament that Wyoming will host April 10-11 in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Talking Stick Golf Club.
"This year's schedule is a little different as far as which events we're playing, but we'll still see tough fields and good competition," stated Jensen. "We'll be able to compete head-to-head with the teams in our district that we need to beat to qualify for Regionals. We'll control our own future."
All nine MWC institutions field men's golf teams. The New Mexico Lobos are the three-time league defending team champions, while BYU's Nick Becker is the returning individual title holder. Following the fall season of '05, five MWC schools, led by UNLV at number eight, were ranked in the top 50 nationally according to Golfweek magazine.
"The MWC is strong this season, as it is most years, and we've added TCU who is a solid team," said Jensen. "That said, if we play well we could be in the mix at the MWC Tournament. At any given event we have five kids who can put it together. These kids have the ability and they are capable. It will be my job to make sure they do not lose sight of that."