Mountain Lions Headed to Regionals
Every season since 2001-02, when Phil Trujillo took over as the golf coach at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, he has guided the Mountain Lions to a berth in the regional tournament.
Three times in the past seven years, his teams have qualified for nationals. The first was in 2002, when UCCS finished 18th. In 2003, the Mountain Lions won the regional and went on to take 10th at nationals with a team featuring Marc Hocking, Jon Olson and Nick Babl. This past season, another regional win sent UCCS to nationals, where Tyler Bishop, Todd Napikoski, Eric Winder, Brian Morfeld and David Cosel earned a 12th-place finish.
But this season, winning the regional will not be enough to punch the ticket to nationals. Instead, the top five teams from the West and Central regions combined will play for the national title.
"The new system is tough since we're now competing against (teams in the) the West Region such as No. 6 Cal State-San Bernardino, No. 7 Sonoma State and six other teams that are ranked in the top 25," said UCCS coach Phil Trujillo. "In the past, we needed to win our region and now the top five teams go on from either the West or Central regions."
The Central/West Regional will be played May 4-6 at the Wilderness Ridge Golf Club in Lincoln, Neb.
Playing against the West Region puts UCCS and their peers in the Central at a distinct disadvantage. Not only is the West Region the toughest, top to bottom, in the nation, but the differences in weather will also play a role.
"They play year round and in good conditions, which is a huge factor," said Trujillo. "We go and play in California and then come back to winter conditions, so it's hard to get consistent with our short game and putting. I'm hoping the weather will be a factor in Lincoln and it plays to our advantage. We're use to the wind and playing in tough weather so maybe we'll get a little of that."
Bishop, Morfeld and Cosel are back as UCCS shoots for its fourth trip to nationals. Joining them are Riley Andrews, Taylor Stamp, Wade Henry, Chris Shoop and Kevin Chan in one of the most balanced and competitive teams Trujillo has had.
Bishop, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference's golfer of the year, leads the way with a 72.21 stroke average. The senior has been so solid this season that he spent much of the fall ranked No. 1 nationally.
Andrews (74.55 stroke average) and Morfeld (75.55) have also been consistent contributors. Trujillo will be looking for those three to play the best golf of their lives and for two of the others to step up their games to national-level competition.
"We need to be absolutely perfect if we're going to stand a chance," said Trujillo about what it will take to qualify for the national championship. "The four and five spots have been a battle but that's a good thing; it gives us really good depth.
"We've worked hard all year on the course and in the weight room. The team has been committed to the program from day one and I know they really want this."
That commitment has shown in the team's results in conference play. The Mountain Lions won their fourth straight RMAC championship and gave the victory emphasis by winning all four qualifying tournaments outright.
Unfortunately, the results have been mixed when playing outside of the RMAC. Bishop won individual medalist honors at the NCAA Division II Preview Tournament in September, but got little support as the team finished 16th. The Mountain Lions took second at a tournament in Point Loma, Calif., but 11th in another trip to the west coast and also finished 12th and 10th at two tournaments at Grand Canyon.
"We've been fortunate to come away with some big wins in the conference but have yet to really produce in other events," said Trujillo. "I feel really good about regionals and confident in the boys that are going. For three days we'll need to forget about everything and just play golf at our best."
Not coincidentally, the team has prepared for this tournament, in part, by being the best people they can be. The Mountain Lions conducted a free junior golf clinic at Cherokee Ridge Golf Club on April 26. The UCCS Athletic Department feels strongly that citizenship and community involvement are crucial aspects of the student-athlete experience.
"It was a project of (Bishop's) that turned into an opportunity for the team to support our community and give back," said Trujillo. "So the boys went out there and gave lessons to anyone that wanted one."
Trujillo is confident that all of the hard work, on and off the golf course, will translate in the team's performance at regionals.
"Obviously to qualify for nationals we'll need to be in the top five at regionals and we'll have to be tough in all five spots," said Trujillo. "If the four and five spots play well we'll be hard to beat."
|Additional News Stories|
|June 18, 2009||Trujillo Named Regional Coach of the Year||Phil Trujillo of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was named the NCAA Division II Central Region Golf Coach of the Year.|
|June 10, 2009||Bishop Named RMAC All-Time Top Golfer, Joins Hocking on All-Time Golf Team||Tyler Bishop of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference all-time top golfer, while fellow UCCS alum Marc Hocking was named to the conference's all-time golf team, the RMAC announced Wednesday.|
|May 22, 2009||Mountain Lions Finish National Championship Tournament in 16th Place||Tyler Bishop birdied two of his final five holes to shoot a 4-over par 75 in Friday's final round as the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs finished 16th at the NCAA Division II Men's Golf National Championship.|
|May 21, 2009||Mountain Lions Remain in 16th After Third Round at Nationals||The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs remained in 16th place at the NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship by shooting a 24-over par 308 in Thursday's third round.|
|May 20, 2009||UCCS Rises Three Places in Standings at NCAA Division II National Championship||The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs improved 14 strokes from Tuesday's first round but that was good enough only to land them in 16th after Wednesday's second round at the NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championship at Loomis Trail Golf Club.|