LARAMIE, Wyo. -
A look at the 2006-07 Wyoming Cowboy golf team offers a sharp contrast to the Pokes' squad from only a year ago. Gone are five players who made up the vast majority of UW's team last season, and in their place are a variety of golfers who are gaining experience with each round they play at the collegiate level. To a man, there is no doubt that each Cowboy has the talent to contribute to the team and help maintain the competitive level of play that has come to be expected from Wyoming Cowboy Golf.
This season, Cowboy head coach and UW Director of Golf Joe Jensen has been realistic with his approach towards his team's goals and expectations. Working with an inexperienced group of players is nothing new to Jensen and the Cowboy program, as the cycle seems to repeat itself every four or five years. Jensen realizes that there will be ups and downs as the year progresses, but that in the long run the Wyoming Cowboy Golf program will be better off because of the learning process.
The Cowboys' goals this season are simple; they want to see improvement as the season goes along and they want to develop an identity that shows they belong at this level and can compete in the conference, region and nation.
"This is a very important growth year for Wyoming Cowboy Golf," said Jensen. "The transition into their first full season of Division I golf that most of my team is being asked to make is a big one, and it is my job to guide them in that process.
"The fall has already provided some valuable experience for our younger players and I think that they have learned and will have a much better spring than fall. Overall our enthusiasm is still there and I am seeing a resiliant group that can be more competitive this spring. The winter break came at a good time for us and a lot of hard work has gone into preparing for the second half of the season."
Helping Jensen with the development of this Cowboy squad will be two seniors who lead the Pokes by example. Senior Jeff Franks and redshirt senior Niel King are each fine college golfers who provide the team with low rounds on a consistent basis. Franks, the school record holder for individual low round, was UW's stroke average leader during the fall, 73.80, and has shown during his career that he is capable of playing at the very highest level in any event. King is coming off of a redshirt year that helped him improve his play and he posted Wyoming's best round last fall, a 67 (-4).
New to the Cowboy team this year are junior transfers Zac Fisher and Ryne Paulson. Fisher had some good fall rounds for the Pokes and should continue to develop his rhythm this spring. Zac was UW's number three player during the first half of this season. Paulson has been putting forth the necessary effort to improve and he contributed to the team when given the chance last fall.
Three freshmen have been thrust into the spotlight this season and are being exposed to golf at a higher level. Casey Ruff played in all six events for Wyoming last fall and showed an even keel attitude that will benefit him throughout his UW career. Max Curnow and Brandon McCoy each have played some rounds for the Cowboys and now have a better understanding of what it will take for them to play at the collegiate level.
As always under Jensen's direction, the Cowboy team will play a diverse and difficult schedule during the 2006-07 season. All of the events will take place in the central and western parts of the United States, but will feature teams from all over the country. Among the six events UW participated in this past fall were the nationally prominent Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., and the District VII Fall Preview in Las Vegas. The Cowboys have a full spring slate in 2007 with seven tournaments on the schedule. Highlighting Wyoming's travels will be trips to the Houston All-American and the BYU Cougar Classic. In addition to these will be the fifth annual UW/Cleveland Golf Cowboy Classic, an increasingly high quality tournament that Wyoming will host April 9-10 in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Talking Stick Golf Club.
"Each year we try to play as many quality, solid events as possible," stated Jensen. "This year is no exception. As we try to develop rhythm and confidence, it benefits us to play against as good of competition as we can play. Being exposed to a high level of golf can be a great learning tool."
UW is a member of the Mountain West Conference, where all nine MWC institutions field men's golf teams. The four-time league defending team champion New Mexico Lobos will find it difficult to repeat again this season, as heading into the spring according to Golfweek magazine UNLV is ranked seventh in the nation, BYU is ranked 15th and TCU is ranked 34th.
"I expect nothing less than an extremely competitive league this year in the MWC," said Jensen. "With nationally ranked schools and an overall reputation for quality play, we can ask for no more than what the MWC will provide in men's college golf."