Ever So Close

CU men’s team comes up 1 stroke shy in its home tournament as Wyoming claims title in Mark Simpson Invite; Buffs’ Justin Biwer places a college career-best third individually

By Gary Baines – 10/4/2022

There’s something particularly agonizing about finishing second by a single stroke in a college golf tournament in which each team competes with five players and over the course of three rounds.

It only makes it more painful falling ever so short if it’s a tournament you’re hosting, at one of your home courses.

The Colorado State men’s team felt such a sting in back-to-back years at the Ram Masters Invitational at Fort Collins Country Club in 2012 and ’13.

On Tuesday, the University of Colorado men had their turn at playing the “what if” game as the Buffs fell one stroke shy of the title at the 12th annual Mark Simpson Colorado Invitational, hosted by Boulder Country Club.

Despite sophomores Justin Biwer and Dylan McDermott sinking clutch, intermediate-range par putts on the 18th hole, CU finished a shot behind champion Wyoming.

CU’s Justin Biwer (right) and Wyoming’s Patrick Azevedo congratulate one another as the two teams battled for the title on Tuesday.

In a final round in which the Buffs led for most of the time, the advantage went back and forth down the stretch. In fact, the live scoring on Golfstat had CU up at the end. But that live scoring was off by two strokes in the case of Adam Matteson, which resulted in the Buffs going from one ahead to one behind when the official scores were posted.

So what might have been the first team victory for CU since the fall of 2019 turned out to be a near miss. The Buffs won — or tied for first place in regulation — at the Simpson Invitational seven straight years from 2013-19 — but have finished fifth and second the last two times in their home event.

“I’m sure a lot of us left a lot of shots out there,” said Biwer, who finished a CU-best third individually on Tuesday. “It sucks to be one back obviously, but we fought pretty well. All we can do now is move on to the next one and set our mind right for that tournament.

“We’re definitely trending in the right direction compared to last year. We’ve got a good team. It’s just a matter of time before we connect three rounds and actually win a tournament.”

CU’s Dylan McDermott (right) reacts after sinking a tough putt for par on No. 18 to finish fifth individually.

Four of the five designated CU team scorers for the event — Biwer, McDermott, Tucker Clark and Colorado product Hunter Swanson — haven’t yet tasted a college team victory at CU.

Coach Roy Edwards certainly took some positives from this week’s performance, including top 11 finishes individually by Biwer (a personal college-best third), McDermott (fifth after a victory earlier this season) and Clark (11th), as well as a good first two rounds by Swanson (68-71 before a final-round 77). But often small things can make the difference between a victory and a near miss.

“It is very disappointing to lose the way we did,” Edwards said. “We lost to a good team in Wyoming — a veteran team that’s a group of fighters. But you’re always disappointed when you lose, especially by one shot because you’re playing that game of where you could have saved shots.

“You have to find a way to beat (a team like Wyoming). They aren’t going to beat themselves.”

Biwer, who finished a college-best third on Tuesday, pitches onto the 14th green.

The Cowboys finished at 2 under par for 54 holes, with CU also ending up under par with an 839 total. Meanwhile, the University of Denver checked in at No. 11 in the 16-team field, while the University of Northern Colorado was 15th. DU’s Carson Griggs, coming off his first individual college victory in his last start, placed 14th on Tuesday (74-69-68).

Arguably the biggest shot in determining the team outcome on Tuesday came from Wyoming sophomore Patrick Azevedo. Putting downhill on the treacherously fast 18th green at Boulder Country Club, Azevedo trickled a 35-foot putt into the cup for a birdie where he certainly would have been happy to get down in two for par. Much earlier in the tournament, a hole-in-one by teammate Kristof Panke on the 198-yard sixth hole was big as well.

That contributed greatly to Wyoming notching its first team victory in a stroke-play event in almost five years.

“You can’t let it get to you too much,” Biwer said of the narrow margin. “Everyone leaves shots out there. Everyone can think, ‘I could have done this better, I could have done that better.’ At the end of the day, what happens happens. You just have to go on from there. If you get the job done, you do. If you don’t, you don’t. Just learn from it and move on to the next one.”

For Biwer, who made it to the round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur this past summer, this week marked his best college finish as he posted rounds of 70-69-67. 

“Justin Biwer didn’t play his best and he finished third and was in the mix to win,” Edwards said after a final round that included four birdies and a bogey for the sophomore from San Diego. 

With Tuesday’s individual victory, Utah Valley’s Brady McKinlay (left) earned a spot in next summer’s Korn Ferry Tour event at TPC Colorado.

The Simpson Invite featured an extra incentive to win as the individual champion earned a berth in next summer’s Korn Ferry Tour event that will be played at TPC Colorado — The Ascendant presented by Blue. 

Brady McKinlay of Utah Valley, a left-hander from Canada, earned the berth as he went 69-68-66 for a 7-under-par 203 total, good for a one-stroke victory. In the final round, he eagle the par-5 12th and added five birdies and three bogeys. Raghav Chugh of Rice was second, while Biwer was third, finishing three back of McKinlay.

It was McKinlay’s second individual college victory in Colorado in less than a month as he also prevailed by four at CSU’s Ram Masters Invitational in September.

“Whether I’m pro or am (next summer after completing his college eligibility), it will be a great experience” at TPC Colorado, said McKinlay, who has never competed in a PGA Tour-affiliated event. “I kind of forgot about (the Korn Ferry spot) while we were playing, but somebody reminded me right after. I’m incredibly excited. I have no idea how it’s going to go, but it will be a lot of fun.”

As for his success this fall season in Colorado-based tournaments, he said, “I’ve played really good golf here, so I’ll come back here anytime.”

For all the scores from the Simpson Invitational, CLICK HERE.

CU coach Roy Edwards (left) was joined at Tuesday’s awards ceremony by Boulder CC member — and three-time PGA Tour winner — Gary Hallberg, the relationship director for Ascendant National Title, which provided a spot in next year’s Ascendant presented by Blue to the Simpson Invite winner.