Historic occasion

With CU and CSU advancing, Colorado puts two teams in men’s DI national championships for first time in the 21st century; CSU’s Christoph Bleier shares individual title at NCAA regional

By Gary Baines – 5/17/2023

It certainly wasn’t easy — there were several tense moments Wednesday while living on the edge — but for the first time in a dozen years, a Colorado-based golf program qualified a full team for the men’s NCAA Division I national championships.

But that wasn’t all. For the first time in the 21st century, two teams from the Centennial State are headed for the men’s DI golf nationals in the same season.

Thanks to gritty performances that culminated on Wednesday at different NCAA regional sites, the University of Colorado and Colorado State both were among the 30 teams that punched their tickets to the national tournament that’s set for May 26-31 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

CU is taking a full team to nationals for the first time since 2002. For Colorado State, it ends a national-berth drought that dates back to 2011.

To put that in perspective, CU freshman — and Colorado resident — Hunter Swanson wasn’t even born in 2002 when the Buffs last advanced. The team that represented CU at nationals that year, finishing 14th, included Ben Portie, Joe Liley, and the Aussie trio of Matt Zions, Kane Webber and Stephen Carroll. 

As for CSU, its 2011 team that went to nationals — and finished 30th — included Zahkai Brown, Kory Harrell, Ryan Peterson, Kirby Pettitt and Mike Sorenson.

This week, with the top five team finishers at each NCAA regional advancing to nationals, CU, seeded ninth in the region, ended up third in Norman, Okla. CSU placed fifth in Auburn, Ala., where there was a two-hour lightning delay after the Rams concluded play on Wednesday afternoon.

The Buffs, who were in a three-way tie for fourth place with just two of their players remaining on the course, finished strong (3 under for the last two holes) to post a 23-under-par total for three days, ending up three strokes better than sixth-place North Florida. 

The Rams, who rallied after briefly falling out of the top five on Wednesday in Auburn, checked in at 10 over par, six strokes ahead of sixth-place Washington.

CSU placed fifth in the Auburn, Ala., Regional on Wednesday.

CSU put two players in the top three individually, with Christoph Bleier, a sophomore from Austria, sharing the title, and senior Connor Jones of Westminster checking in third. 

Bleier claimed the hardware after finishing runner-up in a playoff in his last start, at the Mountain West Conference tournament on April 30. This week, both he and Maxwell Moldovan of Ohio State bogeyed their final holes — in separate groups — to share the championship. Bleier went 68-69-72 for a 7-under-par total.

Jones, the 2022 CGA Player of the Year and a two-time individual winner this college season, posted scores of 71-70-70 to end up at 5 under par.

Joining them on the Rams’ national-qualifying team were Jay Pabin (57th place), Coloradan Davis Bryant (59th) and Rasmus Hjelm (68th). CSU is led by first-year head coach Michael Wilson.

CU finished third in the Norman, Okla., Regional.

As for CU, it was led this week by Swanson (69-72-69, 11th place), 2022 U.S. Amateur round of 16 qualifier Justin Biwer (16th)and Jack Holland (16th). Also for CU this week, season leader Dylan McDermott and Tucker Clark tied for 39th.

The Buffs are guided by 17th-year head coach Roy Edwards and assistant Derek Tolan, a two-time Colorado Open champion.

It should be noted that the last time — prior to this year — that both the CU and CSU men advanced to the NCAA nationals in the same season was 1999, when the Buffs placed 23rd and the Rams 24th at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minn.

For the scores from the Norman, Okla., Regional, CLICK HERE.

For the scores from the Auburn, Ala. Regional, CLICK HERE.

The third Colorado-based team that advanced to NCAA regionals this year, the Big Sky Conference champions from the University of Northern Colorado, finished 13th in Morgan Hill, Calif., and saw its season end on Wednesday. Senior Blake Danni of Cheyenne led the way for the Bears by placing 50th individually (75-78-75).

For the scores from the Morgan Hill, Calif., Regional, CLICK HERE.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates