Bears' bid for first team title in six years ends in playoff
By SCOTT WARD
GRASONVILLE, Md. -- Northern Colorado Men's Golf posted a 289 team score Sunday during the final round of the Towson Fireline Invitational and that was nearly good enough for its first team title since 2006.
Seton Hall clipped the Bears in a one-hole playoff victory, though, and Northern Colorado had to settle for a first-place tie at Prospect Bay Country Club.
Seton Hall shot a 293 Sunday and claimed the event's overall title with a dramatic one-hole playoff victory that saw them post one birdie among their four counting scores, while Northern Colorado turned in four pars.
Freshman Steven Kupcho put a cap on his best collegiate tournament with a 4-under 68 Sunday, and his 5-under 211 for the tournament earned him the runner-up trophy. His final round was highlighted by a first-hole birdie, an eagle on No. 4, and two more birdies on Nos. 9 and 15.
Kupcho's previous three-round best this season was a 219 in September at the Battle of the Tetons.
Northern Colorado sat in first after the Invitational's first round but entered Sunday second on the leaderboard after struggling a bit down the stretch yesterday, on day two of the tournament.
Coach Chuck Scheinost knew a strong final-day start was important for his young team as it worked out the kinks from Saturday's back-nine mishaps, so he stressed to his players the importance of being aggressive from the get-go Sunday and going out and pulling even with the Pirates before the day even started.
Scheinost's talk worked.
All five Bears players birdied hole No. 1, closing their gap with Seton Hall in a hurry, and the stage was set for the dramatic finish.
"Today was a very bittersweet day for us out here," Scheinost said. "We got off to a fantastic start on the front side and got back even with Seton Hall but let it slip a little coming in. Those two bogeys dropped us into a tie, unfortunately.
"The guys are very disappointed and taking it very hard. This is a young group of guys, and everyone thinks they let everyone else down. But, when you consider that we've progressed to the point to even feel this way and continue to get better every week … hopefully having this experience of trying to go out and win a tourney will help us later in the season and at the [America Sky Men's Golf] Conference tournament."
Freshman-transfer Steve Connell, who joined Northern Colorado this semester and was playing this weekend in just his second tournament with the Bears, carded a 2-under 70 Sunday and tied for seventh (217, +1) after going to sleep Saturday tied for 19th.
Junior Kevin Collignon shot a 4-over 76 Sunday, giving him 220 strokes for the tournament (+4), and he tied for 16th. Charlie Mroz finished tied for third in the field with 13 birdies, and his 3-over 75 on Sunday pushed him into a tie for 31st.
Ben Krueger, who led Northern Colorado two weeks ago at the National Invitational Tournament, struggled in Maryland. His 4-over 76 Sunday continued a frustrating weekend that saw him shoot the Bears' high individual score in each round.
"A couple mistakes cost us today," Scheinost said. "We hit a couple balls out of bounds and had some untimely errors that ended up costing us. But we played really well overall. There were definitely a lot of positive signs coming out of this, and we've got to look at those: that we were able to contend and be right there in a big field (22 teams).
"Hopefully this experience will help us in the future. We've got some freshmen and sophomores leading us, and we need to realize we're going to be in this position again, and next time we need to know that we can win. Hopefully we learned that today."