In “Credit Hours,” we tell the stories of college golf teams whose seasons were cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. First up, the Colorado State University Rams.

Third time’s the charm.

That was the attitude of the Colorado State men’s golf team this spring. After all, the team had been through some agonizing defeats the past two seasons.

In 2018, the Rams just barely missed out on an NCAA Championship berth. During the final round of the Kissimmee regional, they slipped four shots back of the qualifying mark. Last year, they gutted out a T-5 finish at the regional in Pullman, Washington. Only five teams can get through each regional, so Colorado State headed back out to the course for a playoff against South Carolina. They lost by a single shot.

While COVID-19 will prevent the Rams from avenging last year’s close call, they were on their way to an excellent 2020 season. We’re here to give them the credit they deserve.

The same few schools seem to have a stranglehold on the team rankings in college golf, but Colorado State, under head coach Christian Newton, has become the rare up-and-coming powerhouse. The Rams won three events this season, reached No. 16 in the Sagarin rankings, and were primed to make a run at the program’s third ever NCAA Championship appearance.

But just as CSU was gaining momentum, the coronavirus intervened. This was crushing for everyone in college golf, but perhaps especially so for a small, scrappy program on the upswing. Yet Newton and his team are keeping their heads up. “We’re trying to look for the positive hidden gems in [this situation],” Newton said on Wednesday. “We have lots of really good things going right now, and have really good leadership in our one senior.”

That senior is A.J. Ott, a hometown kid who grew up a CSU fan. Ott is waiting to hear if the NCAA will grant seniors an extra year of eligibility, but whatever happens, his legacy in the program is secure. “He’s a big piece of what we’ve done here and a big part of our turnaround,” Newton said. “He’s changed the culture of hard work and what the process looks like around here.”

While Ott is the lone senior, Davis Bryant (So.), Parathakorn Suyasri (Jr.), and Jack Ainscough (Jr.) helped lead the team with their consistency on the course. Bryant had the top scoring average at 70.67, while Suyasri (70.72) and Ott (70.76) are just decimal points behind. Ainscough rounded out Colorado State’s top four with a 71.89 average and four top 25s in his last five events.

The team’s other four players—Cullen Plousha, North Ponghathaikul, Oscar Teiffel, and Andrew Lafferty—all saw action this year and averaged under 76. With the upcoming addition of two freshmen and the chance for another year from Ott, the Colorado State men’s golf team could be even more competitive when NCAA action resumes.

There won’t be any more tournaments this spring, but the Rams still feel their best days are ahead of them. “We’re trying to look at it positively and as an opportunity,” Newton said.

Team highlights

No. 16 in the Sagarin Men’s College Golf Team Ratings

1st – Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate

1st – Ram Masters Invitational

1st – St. Mary’s Invitational

Individual highlights

Parathakorn Suyasri – Win – Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate (65-67-67)

Davis Bryant – T-2 – Ram Masters Invitational (71-67-70)

A.J. Ott – T-2 – Ram Masters Invitational (68-67-72)

Davis Bryant – T-3 – St. Mary’s Invitational (64-74-69)

Parathakorn Suyasri – T-3 – St. Mary’s Invitational (68-66-73)