Spotlight on The Rock
Mesa and Tiara Rado believe they can make NCAA Super Regional golf tournament an event to remember
Tiara Rado Golf Course is no stranger to big golf tournaments.
Colorado Mesa University has hosted plenty of playoff events in a variety of sports.
The two are joining forces this spring to host the NCAA Division II West Super Regional women’s golf tournament from May 5–7.
The university put in bids to host several national championships, including men’s and women’s golf, softball, lacrosse and swimming, but weren’t awarded any national events.
NCAA officials called to see if the school would be interested in a golf regional, and CMU jumped at it, said Jermaine Williams, CMU’s events manager.
The golf regional will be the start of a busy playoff week for the Mavericks, who host the RMAC baseball championships May 9–11 at Suplizio Field.
“We thought, ‘What the heck? We’ve got RMAC baseball that week, let’s go ahead and host regional golf, too,’ ” Williams said, grinning. “We’ll have Wednesday off.”
Williams talked to the pros at the area courses, all of whom were willing to host the tournament, and settled on Tiara Rado’s red rock backdrop of Colorado National Monument.
“It’s going to be comparable to what they’ll see at nationals,” he said. “Our team went to Louisville last year and said it’s a tough course, a tough, tough course. They can make (Tiara Rado) tough out there; it’s already tough. It’s a great course, and it’s beautiful.”
Mike Mendelson, the head pro at Tiara Rado, said he and his ace grounds superintendent, Doug Jones, already talked about what they need to do to set up the course to NCAA specifications.
“At the state tournament the (Colorado Golf Association) guys come in and help us mark the course and determine pin placements,” he said. “With the regional, I’m sure there’s some sort of committee with the NCAA to help us out with yardage they need the girls to play.”
Tiara Rado plays anywhere from 5,486 yards from the forward (white) tees to 6,400 from the championship (black) tees. From the blue tees, it’s an even 6,000 yards.
For CMU tournaments, Mendelson said, Jones sets up the course with a mixture of tee boxes, some forward, some back, some in between, and that likely will be the case for the NCAA event.
The Super Regional will have nine full teams and four individuals from the South Central and West regions, spanning 18 states. Colorado Mesa finished second last year in the regional in Elephant Butte, N.M., qualifying its team for nationals.
It might not be the only time the college players test “The Rock.”
The CMU women have their spring invitational April 15–16, which could draw some of the top teams in the two regions for a sneak peek.
“That invitational itself is going to be big because we’re going to get those teams from California, Texas,” Williams said. “They’re all going to be golfing in the Super Regional, so why not come play the course?”
And the regional won’t be the only big spring event for women at the course — the Class 5A girls high school state tournament is May 20–21 at Tiara Rado.
“We’re starting to lay out all the golf events, and that first couple of months is going to be super busy with everything going on,” Mendelson said. “It’ll give us a chance to showcase what we have. We want to make the most out of the opportunity to get that regional.”
Mendelson is hoping for a good winter blanket of snow to give the course plenty of moisture, then a warm February and March to let it spring to life just in time for the big events and a full summer of golf.
Beyond the golf, Williams wants to make the regional an event the golfers will remember.
“For other golf tournaments I’ve run, we’ve created custom bag tags for them and custom scorecards,” he said. “We’ll try to make it special, so they’re just not going to a course to play golf. What can we do to brand it Colorado Mesa, the NCAA and Grand Junction, Colorado?”
Of course, everything has to be done with the myriad NCAA rules and regulations in mind.
“We want to put on a good show because we want to host more things like this. We want more opportunities to host big regional championships, a national championship,” Williams said. “What other little things can we do to make it special so people say, ‘Wow, Grand Junction is going to do a great job no matter what we send their way.’ ”