Kupcho's 'Newcomer of Year' a sign of things to come
By SCOTT WARD
GREELEY -- Lost in the shuffle at last week's America Sky Men's Golf Conference Championship was Steven Kupcho's impressive appointment to the All-ASMGC Second Team and his selection as the league's 2012 Newcomer of the Year.
Kupcho, a true freshman from Westminster, led Northern Colorado in seven of 12 tournaments during the 2011-12 season, so neither honor came as a surprise -- he was the best player this season on head coach Chuck Scheinost's up-and-coming program, and he deserved each one.
Scheinost took over the Bears prior to the 2008-09 season, and he has done a great job building the program up in that short time.
He's added an influx of talent to the roster and done so with out-of-state and in-state stars, including Kupcho, who made a late splash last summer, right before joining the Bears, by earning the 2011 Colorado Golf Association Junior Stroke Play in July at Greeley Country Club.
Former Bear Steve Bidne (Minneapolis, Minn.) was the torchbearer for the program before Kupcho's arrival – he earned two ASMGC Player of the Week awards in his career, an all-conference second team selection as a sophomore and was the league's Player of the Year in 2010 -- and Kupcho seems poised to pick up right where Bidne left off after last week's award ceremony at Lake of Isles Golf Course in North Stonington, Conn.
He started the final round of this year's ASMGC Championship tied for 20th but fired a 4-under 32 on the back nine and a 1-under 71 overall to help him move up the leaderboard and finish tied for sixth in his first NCAA Division I postseason.
He was 4-over after six holes in the final round before sinking birdie putts on five of the next 11 holes.
That was enough to earn him a spot on the six-player all-league second team and earn the league's Newcomer honor.
The only other Bear to earn the latter? You guessed it: Bidne, who claimed it in 2008.
Northern Colorado's women's golf team earned its first NCAA Division I conference championship about two weeks ago and will play this coming weekend in the 2012 NCAA West Regional at Colorado National Golf Club in Erie.
Scheinost's program, obviously, plays in a different conference -- the Big Sky Conference doesn't feature enough (six) athletics programs that feature men's golf -- but the ASMGC still features an automatic bid into the NCAAs.
So, if the Bears men are to match any time soon their women's effort this season, they're going to need similar years from players like Kupcho, who took hold of Northern Colorado's "leader" title this season and ran with it all the way into the postseason.
The Bears were an exciting and young team this season, and their future figures to be however strong Kupcho's career will ultimately be.
The early returns are good.
"Steven [Kupcho] played a phenomenal round after struggling early," Scheinost said. "He played really well, and I'm proud of him for his finish. We were a young team this year, and he led us all the way. The way he wrapped it up is hopefully a sign of things to come for him and this program."
Mason Casper, Utah Valley
Grant Rappleye, Sacramento State
Jordan Weir, Sacramento State
Matt Smith, Hartford
Bryce Edmister, Binghamton
Jake Johnson, Sacramento State
David Celura, Binghamton
Steven Kupcho, Northern Colorado
Jordan Herzog, Weber State
Cameron Rappleye, Sacramento State