March 10, 2008
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming Cowboy golfers will begin their spring season today and tomorrow, March 10-11, 2008 at the Fresno State/Lexus Classic in Fresno, Calif.
The event will be held at Fort Washington Country Club, which measures 6,729 yards, par 72.
19 teams will compete for the team crown, featuring defending champion San Diego State, who is ranked No. 34, No. 45 Oregon, No. 48 TCU and No. 50 Texas, in addition to MWC rival BYU.
When it comes to the Cowboys...youth anyone? College coaches will often explain their team's shortcomings by pointing out the inexperience of their team and the lack of upperclassmen. So, if anyone was ever justified in using that line it could be seventh year Cowboy head coach and UW Director of Golf Joe Jensen, who has only one upperclassman on the roster and played five freshmen on his traveling squad this past fall.
However, although Jensen will admit that his team is young in years, he will also be the first to tell you that the Cowboys are a very talented group who are buying into his coaching philosophy and that he feels good about their potential.
The fall started with few expectations, but as the youthful Wyoming team showed glimpses of a bright future, Jensen's hopes began to soar and he anticipates a quick maturation process.
"Our recruiting goal is to get the best regional talent to UW and that is what these players are," said Jensen. "Being a good player got all of these guys here, now they have to take the next step. I can't over-emphasize the importance of the experience that these kids have gotten by being able to play often, early in their careers. It will help them mature quickly and get better, quicker. Our goal is to create a high level of confidence with these players at an early age.
"Every player that makes it to the college level has to be a good golfer in order to get here, but what will separate the Wyoming Cowboy Golf program will be our work ethic. We will work harder than anyone else and hold each other accountable, because that is what we can control."
Wyoming was led by a true freshman in each one of the seven events of the fall season.
First-year Cowboy Gabe Maier was UW's best at four events; the AFA Invite, the prestigious Tucker Invite, the Kansas Invite and the Wolf Pack Classic. At the Purple/Red Invite, freshman Mike May placed second overall and at the Sycuan Invite he also led the 'Pokes. Rookie Zach Zaremba was UW's top finisher at the final event of the fall, the Turtle Bay Invitational.
With 17 rounds of collegiate golf under his belt, Maier has an impressive stroke average of 74.35. Last season senior Niel King led the Cowboys at 74.67.
Not far back of Maier is May at 75.75, then Zaremba with an average of 75.80.
A pair of walk-ons comprise the remainder of UW's main fall traveling contingent, with freshman Phil Henzlik and redshirt freshman Aaron Johnson. Both contributed low rounds to the Cowboys at key times, as Henzlik placed 22nd at the Purple/Red Invite and Johnson shot a round of 69 (-3) at the Hawaii event.
Senior Zac Fisher is the lone Cowboy upperclassmen. He played in five fall events but had some tough rounds and will look to bounce back this spring. Sophomore Brandon McCoy also saw some playing time this past fall and gives Wyoming some valuable depth and experience in the line-up.
As has become a staple in the Jensen era, the Cowboys play a national schedule in 2007-08. The events are spread all over the United States, including a trip to Hawaii this past fall. UW had a big tournament load during the fall of '07, playing in seven events.
At the Turtle Bay Resort College Invitational in Kahuku, Hawaii, Wyoming's young team all played well at the same time as they shot the third-best round in school history with a mark of 278 (-10) and finished the event with the third-best team event total ever at UW, a score of 859 (-5). Their score of 278 was seven strokes better than the team's previous season best.
Four of five Cowboy golfers were under par during the final round of the fall, led by Zaremba who shot his collegiate best 68 (-4). Johnson scored a career best at 69 (-3), May carded a 70 (-2), Maier tied his career-low mark at 71 (-1) and Henzlik recorded a 73 (+1).
Wyoming will also have a full spring schedule in 2008 with six tournaments on tap. The Cowboys will travel to events in California, Texas, Georgia, Utah and Arizona. In addition to these will be the sixth annual UW/Cleveland Golf Cowboy Classic, an increasingly high quality tournament that Wyoming will host April 7-8 in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Talking Stick Golf Club.
"We play a tough schedule," stated Jensen. "The results don't always look good, but that's the only way to get better. We schedule as good of tournaments as possible because we want to be nationally competitive. Facing a high competition level will pay dividends for us and I think that the kids understand what we're doing.
"It is so much about the experience. I think the team has learned from a busy fall, filled with school and seven tournaments. They know they can be competitive at this level. We want to win and at some point we are going to give the Mountain West Conference a run."
The final scheduled event of UW's spring season is the MWC Championship, to be held April 24-26 in Tucson, Ariz. All nine MWC institutions will battle for the league title and three of those squads will enter the spring ranked in the top-50 by Golfweek and Golfstat. UNLV is ranked as high as 24th in the nation, SDSU is ranked 34th and TCU is ranked 48th.