By DUSTIN MAIN
GREELEY – With another scorching summer coming to an end, Northern Colorado Men's Golf coach Chuck Scheinost and the rest of the Bears are looking to keep things sizzling in 2012-13 as they gear up for what is sure to be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory.
"I'm anxious to get started," Scheinost said. "Last year we had almost an entirely new team and it took time for things to start clicking. As spring rolled around we finally began to gain traction."
Gaining traction might be an understatement. By the time the dust settled, a young roster featuring only two upperclassmen had advanced from 10th to fourth place in America Sky standings, and climbed an incredible 60 spots in the national rankings.
Spring highlights included rallying from a four stroke deficit to tie Seton Hall for first at the Towson Invitational (Mar. 30-Apr.1), while out-dueling Big-10 foe Penn State by eight strokes at the same event.
"Guys started to believe what we were practicing all year," added Scheinost. "Now our focus is to continue building on the momentum we've established."
The momentum carried over into summer competition for a few Bears, as America Sky Newcomer of the Year Steven Kupcho (Westminster), nabbed top-amateur honors at the HealthONE Colorado open on July 29, before claiming the Colorado Golf Association stroke play title on Aug. 12.
"Heading into the summer, my goal was to improve my swing, relax and have fun," Kupcho said. "I knew after the first tournament it was going to be a good summer, and I expect the success to carry over into the upcoming year."
Also stepping up his game for the summer months was returning sophomore, Charlie Mroz (Woodinville, Wash.), who finished fourth in medal play with a two-round total of 140 (-4) at the prestigious Pacific Northwest Amateur Championship (PNGA) in July. Past winners of the PNGA include Tiger Woods and Fred Couples.
"I believe we are at a point where we can compete with higher-end programs," Mroz said. "As a team, we have the drive to get to the next level. The returners are working to keep the momentum going and we have great talent coming in."
Joining the Bears for 2012-13, will be University of Oregon transfer, Conner Barr (Beaverton, Ore.), Jason Umholtz, a University of Louisville transfer and Greeley native, and Jason Pearce, a transfer from Western Texas Junior College.
Barr had a memorable summer of his own, finishing top-six at Oregon Men's Stroke Play Championship in July, while being named an alternate for the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links.
Umholtz was a two-time all-American at South Mountain Community College, while Pearce competed for the number-one ranked junior college in the nation.
"We're in a great situation with three newcomers who will push our current guys to continue improving," said Scheinost. "One of the keys is that nobody gets complacent."
Timing is everything and this year it may be perfect for a potent Bear squad that believes the conference championship is open for the taking.
"This team is of the most talented I've been associated with," Scheinost said. "The conference is wide open this year and I fully expect to contend for a title."
The men hit the links for their first event Sept. 9-10 when they compete at the Gene Miranda Invitational at Eisenhower Golf Club in Colorado Springs, Colo.