Darren Edwards is going where no Fort Lewis College men’s golfer has gone since 2012: an NCAA Division II super regional tournament.
The junior from Loveland will leave Tuesday for The Home Course in Dupont, Washington. He is set to compete May 6-8 at the South Central/West Regional.
“It’s going to be a good field and a good tournament, but we’re there to do our thing and take care of business, and we can do that,” Edwards said Friday while practicing at Hillcrest Golf Club. “I’m going up there to win and compete by taking it one shot at a time.”
Edwards earned his way to the super regional as one of 24 players selected in the entire national as individuals outside of the 64 teams picked to compete. He will enter the super regional ranked 96th in all of D-II.
There was little doubt Edwards would be selected after he tied for second place at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships on April 20 at the Wigwam Golf Resort in Litchfield Park, Arizona. He shot 2-over-par for the tournament to finish five shots back of winner Andrew Ni of CSU-Pueblo. He will look to carry over that strong form to the super regional.
“Things have been going in the right direction. I have a long ways to go, but I’m excited for the future and the things I’m working on are the right things that can take me to the next level as a player,” Edwards said. “It’s been an exciting year, and my game feels good at the right time.”
Edwards’ score at the RMAC Championships helped FLC finish second as a team. It was the Skyhawks’ best placement at the conference tournament since they won the title in 2011. FLC had regularly finished outside the top five in the conference every year since, and the Skyhawks hadn’t had an individual men’s player qualify for a super regional tournament since Charlie Laudermilk in 2012.
FLC knew a shift was coming when head coach Jim Foltz brought in more talent during the last two years. But the 2020 spring championships were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Skyhawks weren’t able to get a glimpse of their renewed potential until the fall.
This spring, the Skyhawks began to put it together with a tie for third in a deep field at the Mustang Intercollegiate at Palm Valley Golf Club in Goodyear, Arizona. That was backed up by a fifth-place finish at the Southern Colorado Masters at Walking Stick Golf Course in Pueblo before the impressive showing to hold off Colorado Mesa and Colorado School of Mines to take second at the RMAC Championships.
“The mindset was to win it. We showed up there to win,” Edwards said. “We came a bit short, which is disappointing, but we gave Pueblo a good run. I think we’re on the radar of teams now, and we’re going to bring it next year. Teams know that, and we’re already looking forward to it.
“Our whole team has a really competitive atmosphere, and the results are proven. We have a terrific captain in Blake Kuzava who is the head of the snake and always pushing us on a daily basis. Everyone on the team has contributed and stayed hungry. It was a decent year, but we’re looking for even more next year and will work our tails off to get there.”
In 2019, Edwards finished 34th at the RMAC tournament. This spring, he tied for 16th at the Mustang Intercollegiate, tied for 11th at the Southern Colorado Masters and then turned in his First Team All-RMAC performance last week. According to the FLC coaches, his steady progression can be attributed to his dedication.
“Darren is an anomaly,” Foltz said after the conference tournament. “He’s extremely loyal to the program, he loves Fort Lewis and he practices hard. And when you practice as hard as he does, you bring other players with you because they see him out there putting in the time to get where he is.”
There isn’t an aspect of his game that Edwards is unhappy with at the moment, but he credited his iron play and chipping for helping him get to the super regionals.
An accounting major, Edwards also shines in the classroom at FLC. Assistant coach Devin Schreiner marveled at how Edwards has been able to stay on top of studying for his final exams this week while preparing for the biggest tournament of his college career.
“There’s a fine line between playing really good or just playing good,” Edwards said. “Our coaches, they are a great one-two punch who make us better on a daily basis. Coach Foltz is the best coach I’ve ever had. He is disciplined, and he has brought that to the program. Since he took over, you can see the forward trend this program has taken. Both of our coaches care about us and do everything they can for us, and the guys all appreciate that.”
Edwards grew up at The Olde Course at Loveland, a public course he will return to this summer as he prepares for several state open events across the Rocky Mountain region. He also will look forward to making his debut at the Navajo Trail Open at Hillcrest Golf Club in Durango in August.
“I love Hillcrest and love the energy that this town brings us. The members here are super supportive of the Fort Lewis golf teams, and we’re really lucky for that along with all the great resources we have here,” Edwards said. “Hillcrest is at a great location, and the people here are great to us. We appreciate them all for that.”
Before he can look ahead to summer tournaments, Edwards has eyes on The Home Course in Washington, where he will tee off with the best D-II players from 21 different colleges from California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington. With a strong showing, Edwards could qualify for the NCAA Division II Championships to be played May 17-21 at Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
“It’s a links style course up there, and I’ve never played golf in the Northwest. But I’m super excited,” Edwards said. “Our freshman Nick Krantz is from Washington, so I’m picking his brain on how golf is out there. Obviously, the ball is going to go shorter, and it’s right on the ocean so there’s going to be some wind. There are going to be deep bunkers to stay out of. The fairway should be a little more generous, but we are expecting longer rough and quick greens.
“You gotta play the golf course and let the score do the talking at the end of the day.”