COLUMBIA — For the 2012-13 season, the Missouri men's golf team marched triumphantly into the Southeastern Conference under the leadership of then-senior Jace Long. The team won its first four tournaments of the season, with Long placing first overall three times, and eventually finishing eighth at the NCAA regionals.
But with Long now playing professionally in the Web.com Tour, the Tigers will look for new leadership from senior Emilio Cuartero.
Cuartero's 72.2 stroke average was Missouri's second-lowest average last season, behind Long. He was the individual champion at the Farms Collegiate Invitational in February and placed in the top three in five different tournaments.
Over the summer, Cuartero returned to his native country of Spain to compete in the 2013 Spanish Amateur Championship. He won the 72-hole tournament by shooting 9-under par.
"It was awesome," Caurtero said. "It's like the U.S. Amateur here but in a smaller country. It's good because the best players in Spain play in the tournament. More than just winning, it was that my dad caddied for me. I only see him a couple of months out of the year, so that was awesome."
Coach Mark Leroux said Cuartero's win will help him gain momentum for the upcoming season.
"Absolutely," Leroux said. "He had a great summer, and he knows it."
On Monday, Cuartero was named Missouri's co-captain along with senior Hunter Kraus. Leroux said the duo could spell success for the team.
"These guys came in as roommates together ... so it's just perfect," Leroux said. "The two of them coming at it from different perspectives but (having) to reach a common goal between them is, I think, just going to be perfect."
Along with naming its captains, the team finished its qualifying practices Monday to determine which five players would play at Turning Stone Tiger Intercollegiate on Saturday and Sunday. Cuartero took the No. 1 spot.
"I love the pressure," Cuartero said. "This is why I play the sport."
Cuartero said he feels extra pressure to make up for the loss of Long.
"Now without him, it's like I have to take over what he did," Cuartero said. "And he hasn't put the bar really easy."
Cuartero hopes his success will spread to his teammates.
"I feel like I'm getting better, and I hope my teammates around me are getting better at the same time," Cuartero said. "We don't know what's going to happen, but we'll see. We have really big hopes this year."