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Men's Golf Ready to Begin Season At Copper Cup

MARICOPA, Ariz. – The Sun Devil men's golf team -- ranked No. 1 by Golf Channel's Brantley Romine in his season preview -- will compete for the first time as they take on the Arizona Wildcats in the two-day "Copper Cup," set to take place on Sunday and Monday at AK-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa. The Ryder-Cup-style tournament will have each team with eight players competing. On Sunday, the teams will play four four-ball matches and on Monday, the teams will play eight single matches.

There are 24 total points are available to the two teams; therefore 12.5 points will win the Copper Cup title. Each match is worth one point and ties will result in a half point being awarded to each team.

"So the truth is, the Copper Cup was the brainchild of Brady Wilson, the general manager at AK-Chin Southern Dunes," Sun Devil head coach Matt Thurmond said on Friday. "And it's not that we've never thought about it, or maybe had hoped about having a head-to-head match [between] Arizona and us, we talked about it here and there, but as soon as things were looking like they're going to get canceled and we needed to reschedule some things, Brady jumped in and said, 'Hey, what if we did this?' and we agree we should.

Thurmond and Arizona coach Jim Anderson liked the idea and ultimately chose the date of the tournament so that it could be the first tournament of the NCAA golf season. In preseason Golf Channel rankings, the Sun Devils came out ranked as the top team in both the Pac-12 and the nation, and the Wildcats came out as the second team in the Pac-12 and No. 18 in the nation. Both will contend for the Pac-12 championship and the Copper Cup will have national attention in just January.

Sun Devil senior Chun An Yu, sophomore David Puig and junior Cameron Sisk checked in at No. 4, 13, and 20, respectively in the preseason rankings. Wildcats Trevor Werbylo and David Laskin were not in the national preseason rankings but were members of the preseason All-Pac-12 projections.

Thurmond is not letting the preseason rankings distract from what his team needs to get done.

"It's nice to think, 'hey people think that ASU is in a good place,' that we have good players, and we're going to be tough to beat, but a preseason ranking is nothing," Thurmond said. "We haven't played a hole of golf yet. Competitively, we haven't done anything yet."

"One of the things we talked about all the time is that every day, we have to go out and re-earn it over and over again, no matter what it is. Whatever we did yesterday, doesn't do anything for us today, so that's the mentality. We're not afraid to be ranked number one for sure… but to me, a ranking should only be [made] after someone's actually done something."

AK-Chin Southern Dunes is the host of the Sahuaro Amateur on a course that is familiar to most players on both teams. Thurmond says that his team is "big fans" of the course.

"When I first got here, Brady -- a Sun Devil -- reached out and said, 'anything you need, we're here for you,' so during our first year, we played there a ton," Thurmond said. "We love going down there, some of our guys have played in the Sahuaro, but as a team, we do play there several times a year. It's a legit championship golf course. The wind can blow, the greens are fast and firm enough, I think it's going to be a really good test. It's [a course] that both teams know."

"There was a worry about if this a [more than one-time deal], how are we going to make it fair from a venue standpoint? [AK-Chin] is a totally neutral course for the teams, I think this is a cool opportunity."

The Sun Devil lineup for the cup includes Yu, Sisk, and Puig, who were all in the preseason top 20, but Thurmond also mentioned sophomore Ryggs Johnston along with seniors Blake Wagoner and Mason Anderson being key parts to the weekend's lineup as well.

Coach Thurmond is excited for the match play component of the Copper Cup to be great preparation to the team match play at the NCAA Championships at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale at the end of May.

"I think this is a great opportunity for both teams to just get a little taste of the match play and to play against another great team and see how your players respond to match play and desert golf," Thurmond added. "Teams are coming here all the time because they want to play Grayhawk, they're here because they want to see desert golf, so even as we speak, there's teams flying in and out of here all the time to get a feel for golf out here."

As top teams around the country prepare for the NCAA Championships and the spring golf season as a whole, the national spotlight this weekend will be on the No. 1 Sun Devils and the No. 18 Wildcats at AK-Chin Southern Dunes in Maricopa, Arizona.

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