Sept. 9, 2001
Official Tournament program in PDF Format
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Expectations are high for the Air Force golf team's 2001-02 campaign, as the Falcons are gearing up for another season on the links. The Falcons, who are coming off a solid 2000-01 season, open the year Sept. 14-16 as host of the Falcon-Antigua Invitational tournament
The tournament, sponsored for the first time this year by Antigua and played on the Eisenhower (Blue) Course, and features teams from all over the country. The 24-team event attracts some of the best college teams, from the east coast to the west coast and everywhere between.
"It is one of the biggest and best college tournaments in the nation," said head coach Gene Miranda. "We have teams lining up to play in the tournament. I have had up to 15 teams on a waiting list."
Back to defend his title at the Falcon Invitational is 2000 winner C1C (Sr.) Ben Leestma. Leestma, the team's captain, was just the second cadet in 32 years to win the tournament. It was the highlight of a stellar season for Leestma, who also won the Service Academy Classic for the third consecutive season with a tournament record score of seven-under-par 209. He also grabbed third place in two other tournaments and was named team most valuable player.
"We just concluded 108 holes of qualifying play. Ben Leestma shot 20 under par, the lowest qualifying score in the Academy's history," Miranda said. "The way he is playing makes him the tournament favorite."
Two other likely tournament starters are C2C (Jr.) Brandon Daum and C1C Chris Dieter. Daum was recruited for basketball, but has chosen to focus on golf. He qualified for the U.S. Amateur tournament and the Colorado Open, a professional tournament, and is playing solid golf. Dieter has also been playing great golf. Newcomer C4C (Fr.) Adam Wasinger has shown a lot of potential and is expected to compete for one of the two remaining starting positions.
Despite winning the individual title in the 2000 tournament, the rest of the team struggled, and the Falcons placed 10th overall - shooting 30 over par for the tournament (298-308=606). Weather was certainly a factor in the high scores, as both rounds were played in temperatures in the 30s and 40s. An unexpected snowstorm caused the final round to be canceled. The 2000 team title was won by San Diego University (287-298=585), which defeated runner-up New Mexico by five strokes.
The Falcons are up against tough competition, as some of the best golfers in the college ranks come to the Academy to participate in the annual Falcon Invitational. Over the past 30 years, many current PGA tour golfers played in the event while they were in college. They include Jay Don Blake, the winner of the 1980 tournament, Hale Irwin, Mike Reid, Pat McGowan, Andy North, Steve Melnyk, Johnny Miller, Greg Twiggs, Joe Acosta, Jonathan Kaye, Keith Clearwater and former U.S. Open winner Steve Jones.
One highlight of the 54-hole, three-day tournament is the College-Amateur, played the day before competition begins. The top seeded player from each team is paired with Academy officials and area residents in an 18-hole modified scramble format.
The Falcon Antigua Invitational is played at the Academy's Eisenhower Golf Course, which has won acclaim as being one of the best courses in Colorado. Nestled in the razorback foothills of the Rampart Range, the course was first opened in 1959. It is named after former President Dwight. D. Eisenhower, who took part in the dedication ceremony.
The Blue course (Eisenhower has two courses - blue and silver) has large greens, long teeing grounds and fairway bunkers requiring 250-yard carry. It is much like other mountain courses, having very fast greens with the dominant break and speed coming away from the mountains. The par 72 can be stretched to over 7,200 yards but the 7,000 feet elevation makes it play much shorter. Other unique characteristics include no out of bounds and only a few small water hazards. Recently, Sports Illustrated named Eisenhower one of the 10 best golf courses on a college campus while Golf Digest has ranked the blue course as the third-best course in Colorado.