8th consecutive victory in Ram Masters Invite by CSU men gives them 2 team wins in their first 2 events of the season; Coloradans Davis Bryant, Connor Jones and freshman Matthew Wilkinson shine for Rams
By Gary Baines – 9/20/2022
This week, Davis Bryant played his final Ram Masters Invitational, the tournament that his college golf team, Colorado State, hosts annually at Fort Collins Country Club.
In the Coloradan’s four times competing in the event — it wasn’t held in 2020 due to Covid-19 safety concerns — here’s how the graduate student from Aurora has fared:
— Four team titles in four tries for his Rams.
— His individual finishes at the RMI have been sixth, second, second and second.
While obviously the 2019 CGA Player of the Year would loved to have an individual victory in the tournament, all in all that’s a pretty stellar RMI resumé.
All told, CSU’s team victory on Tuesday at Fort Collins CC was its eighth straight in the event, which debuted in 2012. Even with them having a home-course advantage, that’s quite a remarkable run.
“We came in here having won the tournament seven times in a row. It’s hard not to think about that,” Bryant said. “But at the end of the day there are a lot of really good players and teams here. We want to show we’re the best, which was great to do this week.”
In addition to all of Bryant’s top-6 college finishes at Fort Collins Country Club, he also won a college-like event, the GCAA Amateur, at the course in 2020 during the Covid collegiate shutdown.
“It’s awesome. I just love the golf course,” he said. “The first time I played it, I was 15 for my sophomore state (high school) tournament. I just fell in love with the golf course. It suits my game. And obviously I’ve had a lot of success, which is cool. I would like a win (in this event individually), but it’s fun to come to a place where I play well and I’m comfortable. Obviously I want to help the team as much as I can. So it’s great.”
As a team, CSU tied the tournament scoring record with a 17-under-par total for 54 holes, having also posted that total in 2017. And the 11-stroke victory margin marked the fifth time the Rams have prevailed by double digits in the RMI.
This time, though CSU didn’t land the individual title — Utah Valley’s Brady McKinlay did at 9 under par — the Rams placed a remarkable four players in the top five and ties out of the 84-man field. Bryant shared second place at 5-under 205 (68-68-69), while teammates Connor Jones of Westminster (70-69-67), Matthew Wilkinson of Centennial (71-67-68) and Austrian Christoph Bleier (75-68-63) tied for fifth at 206.
Bleier was the most spectacular on Tuesday, making birdies on each of his first six holes and shooting a front-nine 29. His 63 tied the tournament single-round scoring record, set by Kyler Dunkle in 2015,
Wilkinson, a freshman competing in just his second college tournament, teed it up strictly as an individual and posted his first top-10/top-5 college finish.
“I’m definitely happy with those results,” Wilkinson said of his 19th-place showing at the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational and his fifth place on Tuesday. “I worked with my coach Saturday and got my swing feeling a lot better. I kind of had a feeling it was going to be a good week. Yesterday morning I had a couple of shots and was like, ‘I’m kind of liking this.’ I kept grinding and it turned out to be a pretty good couple of days.
“It was definitely fun.”
It should be noted that Wilkinson was recently given a “Future Famer” award by the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. Another recent freshman Future Famer, Hunter Swanson from the University of Colorado, also had a strong showing at the Ram Masters, tying for 11th place at 1 under par (70-69-70).
For CSU, which won the team title at the Falcon Invitational at Eisenhower Golf Course on Sept. 11, it now has two team victories to show for its first two events of the season. And Michael Wilson, who was named the new CSU head coach just a month and a half ago, knows nothing but success so far as a college head coach, with two wins in two tries.
“That’s kind of perfect, right?” he said. “The boys played awesome. I’m inheriting a great team. (Former coach Christian) Newton did an awesome job. I didn’t recruit any of these guys, but they’re a great bunch of guys — hard workers, super competitive, a lot of fun to be around and they want to win.”
And win they did on Tuesday when they posted just their fourth sub-270 single-round team score ever in the RMI — an 11-under 269. And with that, CSU took much of the suspense out of the team race as Cal State Fullerton finished runner-up, 11 strokes behind. As for the other Colorado-based teams competing, the University of Denver was sixth (+15 overall), Northern Colorado 10th (+32) and Air Force 15th (+56).
As Wilson noted, when he was named CSU head coach on Aug. 5 the cupboard was anything but bare regarding talented players. Bryant (181st), Jones (233rd) and Bleier (250th) are all ranked among the top 250 amateurs in the world.
“In coach Wilson’s case it’s all great because we’re all coming back except for Matthew Wilkinson,” Bryant said. “We have a really deep team and a really competitive environment. We all know how to play and all have a lot of experience. As a coach that’s a key for him to not really have a lot to deal with. He hasn’t been to the (Colorado tournament) courses much at all so we’re kind of teaching him some things, which has been cool — and a little different.”
And, as has been the case for quite a while now, Bryant and Jones are pushing each other to success. Jones, who swept the CGA’s major championship titles this year, won the individual championship at the Falcon Invitational, where Bryant placed second. And on Tuesday, the two were paired in the final foursome and Bryant edged Jones by a stroke, with both placing in the top five overall. And, outside of college golf, Jones and Bryant finished 1-2, respectively, last month in the CGA Amateur.
“That’s been awesome,” Bryant said of their friendly competitiveness. “At the state Am we did that. And last week (at the Falcon Invite). And today we wanted to beat one another. We push each other every day at practice on the course. We have a great relationship. We both want to beat each other, but we’re each other’s best fans at the same time.”
On Tuesday, Bryant said he and Jones had a best-ball game against their two European teammates, Bleier and Rasmus Hjelm, with the Europeans winning that competition relatively easily, 59-63.
Though he’d much rather have won that game, it’s one loss that Bryant can live with on a day that so much went right.
For all the scores from the Ram Masters Invitational, CLICK HERE.