In a remarkable comeback, the CSU men’s golf team pulled out of an eight-stroke hole Saturday to become Mountain West Conference champions for the first time in the program’s history.
The Rams, who were in fourth place, eight strokes behind leader BYU after the second day of the tournament, came all the way back to capture the conference title, winning by four strokes at the Omni Tucson National Course in Arizona.
CSU coach Jamie Bermel said he never doubted that his team could pull off the comeback.
“I told the guys to go out and play golf,” he said. “I said to play as good as they possibly could and let me worry about the score. They certainly did that.”
Three Rams finished in the top 10, including sophomore Riley Arp, who shot a career-best tournament score of 212, which was good enough for a second place individual finish. Dustin Morris and Bryce Handstad also played effectively, finishing fifth and 10th, respectively.
Handstad led Saturday’s charge, shooting a 5-under 67 in his final round.
Bermel didn’t see the sophomore play the entire round, but he had a feeling Hanstad was in for a good performance early on.
“He looked like he was all over the pin,” Bermel said. “When he birdied the second hole, you knew he was going to have a good day.”
Hanstad gave credit to his teammates, saying they motivated him.
“Going in, I felt confident that it was doable,” he said. “I had four other guys behind me who were playing well, and it really boosted my confidence.”
Zen Brown, who shot a 221 for the tournament, admitted that winning a conference title after starting the final round in fourth place came as a bit of a surprise.
“Our team had the talent, and I knewwe had the ability to do it,” the junior said. “I just didn’t know if it was going to happen that day. It is still surreal, but it’s starting to sink in.”
Along with winning the conference title, the Rams picked up several individual honors.
Morris and Handstad were named to the all-conference team, and Bermel was named conference coach of the year.
By winning the tournament, CSU qualifies for the regional tournament in three weeks.
Bermel said that if his team can keep playing theway it did in Arizona, it could go a long way.
“Saturday was about as good as you can get in college golf,” he said. “I’ve never seen our guys play that good in that situation.”
Brown agreed, adding that winning the conference the way they did gives the Rams a huge boost of momentum that could carry them well into regionals.
“We have a really good shot to play well,” he said. “If we finish in the top 10, we will go to nationals. I have all the confidence in the world that we can do it.”
Sports reporter Adam Bohlmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.