The UC Santa Barbara golf team will begin the first round of the Wyoming Cowboy Classic today in Scottsdale, Ariz. with the hopes of improving upon its school-best ninth-place finish two years ago. The Gauchos will have their work cut out for them though, as the fifth annual tournament draws high-caliber collegiate talent from around the nation.

This year’s field of 23 teams will challenge tournament host Wyoming at the North Course of the Talking Stick Golf Course. With three individual golfers rated in the top 50 nationally by Golfstat competing in the event, Santa Barbara may find difficulty grabbing the top spots in the individual standings, but has the consistency to best last season’s finish despite the stiffer competition.

#14 Louie Bishop from UC Davis, #33 Gary Woodland from Kansas and #44 Fredric Sundberg from Campbell are all favored to earn top spots and grab individual honors. Bishop and Sundberg finished tied for fifth in last year’s individual standings.

Texas, El Paso is the only returning champion from the classic’s brief history, as 2003 winner Arizona State, 2004 victor UCLA and 2006 champion New Mexico State will not participate this year in order to compete in other events.

2006 runner-up Western Kentucky will be looking to avenge their narrow loss to New Mexico State after losing by three strokes. The two teams were the only ones out of the 21-team field to post average scores below par.

Two years ago, senior Michael Feuerstein led UCSB with a four-over-par 214 – good for 21st overall – while senior Joe Ryon and alum Nick Telliard placed 42nd for the Gauchos. Ryon will look to the lead the team this time around, as both Feuerstein and Telliard no longer golf for the Gauchos. Junior Marty Melcher, who placed 68th two years ago with a 222, along with the rest of the Gaucho squad, will look to aid Ryon in the quest for the cup.

After missing last year’s Cowboy Classic, UCSB looks to pick up where they left off two years ago and come away from the event with some confidence for the Big West Championships April 23-24.

The tournament consists of 54 holes, with two rounds of 18 holes today before the final round of 18 tomorrow.

– Staff Report