The Mark Simpson Colorado Invitational has proven to be a college tournament where teams and individuals from the Centennial State have thrived over the years.
From 2010 through '17, a Colorado-based school won or tied for the team title six times, while a Colorado resident claimed the individual championship on five occasions.
The ninth edition of the event, which wrapped up Tuesday at Colorado National Golf Club in Erie, took that to another level.
Let's count the way:
-- The host University of Colorado won the team title -- for the seventh time, but the fourth time outright. The Buffs have tied for the top spot three times, including last year, which is technically considered a shared title though Utah won a team playoff. But on Tuesday, it was CU who edged the Utes by two strokes.
-- And for the second straight year, the top two individual finishers were golfers who grew up in Colorado. University of Utah senior Kyler Dunkle, who lived in Colorado until his parents moved to San Francisco just after Kyler won the CGA Amateur last month, captured the Simpson title for the second straight year, becoming the first two-time individual champion at the event.
"This is a golf course that sets up really well for me," said the 22-year-old senior. "I've played here a lot over the years, including in high school when they let some high school players come compete out here (against one another on the Simpson tournament setup). I love this place and I've had success here. So it's an incredible feeling."
Dunkle and CU sophomore Trevor Olkowski, who grew up in Grand Junction, were tied for the top spot at the end of regulation. And technically, each will be able to claim the individual victory, though Dunkle sank a 6-foot birdie to win the playoff over Olkowski, who lipped out a 7-foot birdie attempt. (The two are pictured above, with Dunkle in red.)
It's the first time Olkowski has a first-place showing on his college golf resume.
-- And while all that is impressive enough from a Colorado angle, Tuesday marked CU's second team title in three tournaments to start the season as the Buffs also won the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational at the Air Force Academy. It's the first time in Roy Edwards' 13 seasons as CU's head coach that the Buffs have recorded two outright team victories in the same month, though in 2011 CU tied for first at Air Force, losing in a playoff, and won the Simpson Invite outright. (Edwards is pictured at left with his team.)
-- As for Dunkle, he's not only won this event for two straight seasons, but he's claimed individual titles two weeks in a row. On Sept. 18, he prevailed at the Showdown in the Rockies tournament in Driggs, Idaho. Dunkle, who transferred to Utah from Colorado State, now owns three individual college victories for his career.
In the team race, CU came into the final round with a three-stroke lead and shot a 6-under-par 282 on Tuesday, leaving the Buffs at 14-under 850 for the three rounds. That was two strokes better than fellow Pac-12 team Utah,
which had beaten CU by 38 strokes in Idaho last week.
"We're really pleased," Edwards said. "We played poorly, especially the second round, last Monday (in Idaho), but the guys responded really well (this week). It's a pretty young team, so to see them do that was what we were hoping. The credit goes to those (CU players).
"It's not easy playing at home a lot of times. Utah has a really good team, so to beat them and beat a lot of the other teams by quite a bit was really satisfying and hopefully a good springboard to finish off the fall."
The team victory was CU's 15th in major Division I tournaments in Edwards' 13 seasons at the program's helm. Mark Simpson, his predecessor for whom this week's tournament is named, won 16 team titles in his 29 years as CU's coach. (The victorious Buffs are pictured at left.)
Victories "don't happen very often, so you enjoy them as a team," Edwards said.
"It was a good month for us," said Olkowski, whose family recently moved from Grand Junction to Las Vegas. "We have momentum going into the rest of the fall season and hopefully we'll keep it up through the spring, even though that's a long time from now."
The only other Colorado-based team that fielded a team for the Simpson Invite, Northern Colorado, placed ninth out of the 16 teams at Colorado National. UNC had the third-lowest score of the final round, a 9-under-par 279, leaving the Bears at 889 overall.
Individually, several local players besides Dunkle and Olkowski -- who finished at 9-under-par 207 -- placed in the top 10 on Tuesday. That includes CU's Daniel O'Loughlin (third at 211), Ross Macdonald (sixth at 214) and Andre Leveque (10th at 216); UNC's Joshua Matz (sixth at 214); and Colorado State's Oscar Teiffel (10th at 216).
But it came down to Dunkle and Olkowski for the individual title. They both shot 4-under-par 68s on Tuesday. Dunkle almost aced the 180-yard 16th with a 9-iron as his ball hit the pin and finished 5 feet away for a birdie. And he backed that up with another birdie by hitting it 30 feet past the flag with a 3-wood on the 345-yard, par-4 17th hole, then two-putting. Dunkle, who made six birdies on Tuesday, called the 3-wood he hit on 17 his best shot of the tournament.
As for Olkowski, he also made a half-dozen birdies on Tuesday, with the last come on 17, where he pitched to 3 feet.
Then in the playoff on the 18th hole, Dunkle added one more birdie, while Olkowski slightly misread his putt and his ball lipped out on the right side of the cup.
And with that, Dunkle (at left with Edwards) had his second college victory in a week.
"You can't foresee those kinds of things because every time you show up at one of these tournaments, you've got to play some really good golf to beat all the good players out here," he said.
Dunkle has been on quite a roll since his junior season at Utah ended. He won the CGA Amateur, finished second in the Utah State Amateur, qualified for the U.S. Amateur and earned low-amateur honors in the CoBank Colorado Open by placing ninth. And since starting up his senior season of college golf, he's racked up two victories in three tournaments.
"I would definitely say my game is in a groove," he said. "My swing feels great. Last spring I didn't feel that comfortable with my game because I was battling some (back) injuries and trying to get over that. During the summer, I started worrying less about what my body felt like and more about enjoying the game. When I did that, I stopped paying attention to bad rounds and focused on the good rounds and the good shots. I built that memory bank of things going positively. It's put me in a position where I am -- where if I step on a golf course and stick to my game plan and stay confident, most of the time I'm going to play pretty good. Then it's a matter of if it's good enough that week."
As for Olkowski, despite the playoff loss, he notched his best individual finish ever in a college tournament.
"I'm still happy," he said. "I lost the trophy, but I still get a tie for first. Being a competitive guy, I hate losing like that. But I'm happy with the way I played all week. I fought hard and it was a good week."
Said Edwards of Olkowski: "To me, he didn't make any mistakes that cost him. When he does that, he hits it good enough that he's going to be in the hunt. He's just become a really, really solid player. And he's a smart kid. We're happy for him."
Elsewhere in Local College Golf -- The University of Denver women remained in fourth place in its title defense at the Golfweek Conference Challenge at the Fazio Course at Red Sky Golf Club in Wolcott.
With one round remaining, DU sits at 12 over par, 27 strokes behind leader UCLA.
Mary Weinstein of Highlands Ranch continues to lead the Pioneers as she sits in sixth place individually at 2-under-par 142, which leaves her four shots out of the lead. ...
Meanwhile, at the Coeur d'Alene Collegiate in Idaho, Colorado State University sophomore Haley Greb finished a college career best fifth individually. Greg posted a 1-over-par 214 total (75-69-70) to end up three strokes behind champion Abegail Arevalo of San Jose State. As a team, CSU placed seventh in the 18-school field.
Mark Simpson Colorado Invitational
Sept. 24-25, 2018 (final) at Par-72 Colorado National GC in Erie
1. (out of 16 teams) Colorado 279-289-282--850
T1. Trevor Olkowski 68-71-68--207
3. Daniel O'Loughlin 68-71-72--211
6. Ross Macdonald 72-73-69--214
18. John Paterson 71-74-73--218
75. Cole Krantz 73-80-77--230
Competing Only As Individuals
10. Andre Leveque 70-78-69--216
14. Kristoffer Max 74-73-70--217
31. Victor Bjorlow 70-77-74--221
35. Wilson Belk 73-75-74--222
9. Northern Colorado 296-314-279--889
6. Joshua Matz 70-75-69--214
18. Coby Welch 74-77-67--218
64. Jack Castiglia 79-79-70--228
83. Marcus Tait 75-85-73--233
87. Li Chen 77-83-75--235
T1. (won playoff with a birdie) Coloradan Kyler Dunkle, Utah 66-73-68--207
Competing Only As Individuals
10. Oscar Teiffel, CSU 74-73-69--216
31. Cullen Plousha, CSU 74-75-72--221
75. Coloradan Tyler Severin, Wyoming 73-80-77--230
83. Colter Baca, Air Force 78-81-74--233
86. Luke Trujillo, Air Force 82-76-76--234
For complete results, CLICK HERE.
Women's Golfweek Conference Challenge
At Par-72 Fazio Course at Red Sky GC in Wolcott
4. (out of 18 teams) Denver 293-295--588
6. Mary Weinstein 68-74--142
19. Sophie Newlove 70-76--146
32. Alyson Bean 78-72--150
40. Camille Enright 79-73--152
82. Alison Armstrong 77-85--162
Competing Only As Individual
28. Trussy Li 77-72--149
For complete results, CLICK HERE.
Coeur D'Alene Collegiate
Sept. 24-25, 2018 (final) at Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
7. (out of 18 teams) Colorado State 294-288-300--882
5. Haley Greb 75-69-70--214
25. Katrina Prendergast 72-72-75--219
58. Sydney Smith 73-77-77--227
63. Jessica Sloot 74-75-79--228
68. Ellen Secor 79-72-78--229
For complete results, CLICK HERE.