Sept. 8, 2014

Celeste Burnham
cburnham@uccs.edu

Last spring, the UCCS men’s golf team was just two strokes away from making an appearance in the national championship. This season, they look to clear that last obstacle.

Jared Verner, assistant athletic director for sports information, believes the men’s golf team has serious promise.

“They closed strong last year. This year they want to open strong,” said Verner.

The Mountain Lions finished seventh in the regional championship last season, one spot from qualifying for the national tournament. While the national tournament is not held until late spring, the fall season is an important building block, especially in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Still one of the most competitive Division II conferences, UCCS looks to finish among the top three in the RMAC for the 15th time in the last 17 seasons.

Three seniors will look to add to that potent history.

“The team has gotten stronger and better throughout the summer,” said Verner. “We have always had a good men’s golf program and they can rise up to that.”

In the Golf Coaches Association of America national preseason poll, the team is one of four RMAC teams receiving votes. With 22 votes, the Mountain Lions would be 36th overall in the country if the rankings were extended beyond the top 25.

UCCS was picked second in the conference preseason poll behind defending conference champion Western New Mexico.

Junior transfer Kyle Southard sees the importance of the three seniors on the team.

“I just feel like the seniors bring it to the team,” said Southard. “There is a big difference from high school golf to college golf so it is good to have those mentors. They are very helpful.”

The team looks to mix new talent like Southard with returners like senior Patrick Skakel, who tied for second at last year’s RMAC championship.

Sophomore Colin Prater is also a transfer, coming from Colorado Mesa where he spent his fi rst season. Prater individually qualifi ed for nationals in the spring after tying Skakel in the RMAC championship. He returns to Colorado Springs after playing for Palmer High School in town.

“I’m expected to come in here and play well and be a good team member,” said Prater. “Golf is a unique situation since it is an individual sport. If you play well it’s going to be a good day.”

The main focus remains getting back to the ultimate goal: nationals.

“I think we should work towards winning a national championship as a team,” said Prater. “First goal is winning the fi rst tournament on Sept. 15, and the end goal is winning the national championship. I like to take things step by step, shot by shot.”

Men’s golf opens up on the road this year at the Palmer Foundation Invitational in Amarillo, Texas Sept. 15 and 16. The UCCS Invitational, at Eisenhower Golf Course at the Air Force Academy, is Oct. 13 and 14.