Montezuma-Cortez never really had a chance to defend its regional golf championship won in 2019. The Panthers were in a new region in 2020. That didn’t bother Thayer Plewe one bit, as he stormed to a seven-shot win.
The results were nearly as good in the 3A Region 1 tournament on Tuesday at Hollydot Golf Course in Colorado City as the Panthers had a year ago playing in 3A Region 4. The Panthers placed second in the 16-team field with a three-player score of 233, and that will allow the Panthers to send their entire team to the state championship tournament.
The Panthers’ team score was only five shots behind regional champion Colorado Academy and was 13 better than third-place Swallows Charter Academy.
“It was a crazy day. I couldn’t be more proud of all of them,” M-CHS head coach Todd Plewe said. “All four boys posted a personal best. That is unheard of on a course we played for the first time in a practice round (Monday).”
Thayer Plewe put on a show Tuesday. The Montezuma-Cortez sophomore didn’t make a single bogey and circled six birdies on his scorecard for a 6-under-par round of 65 to win the regional championship. Nobody else was even close, or under par.
“I had to kind of take it one shot at a time,” he said. “With all the good players at a regional, it’s about shutting your mind off and letting the body do what it knows it has to do. Swing on, brain off.”
The champion said he knew he would be able to shoot a low score thanks to wide-open fairways that allowed for plenty of birdie opportunities from the fairway. Mastering some fast greens was the biggest challenge.
“I’ve never had a bogey-free round before,” he said. “Not a ton went wrong, just a lot of right. The greens were incredible and rolled really true, which made it easier to deal with the speed. I was fortunate to have a good putting round.”
Rye’s Chance Donlon placed second at 1-over 72. He had four birdies and five bogeys on his scorecard. Pagosa Springs’ Taylor Cotts placed third with a 2-over 73.
Also for Montezuma-Cortez, Justin Brunner finished in 11th place. He made the turn at 6 over but steadied his play on the back to shoot an 8-over 79 for a new career-best round.
“He started making putts,” coach Plewe said of Brunner’s back-nine. “He didn’t give up or get frustrated. I am really proud of JJ for that. He’s got a really good demeanor on the golf course and doesn’t let things bother him. He led us today, played really good and showed a lot of senior leadership. He was cool and collected.”
The biggest question for Montezuma-Cortez was what it would get out of its third and fourth players. Early in the year, the team was very confident in the play of Robert Herbert. But an injury to Herbert left the Panthers wondering who would step up.
Freshman Kaden Huff proved to be the answer. He shot an 89 on Tuesday for his first-career round in the 80s. Huff’s day was highlighted by a birdie on the par-3 15th, which played at 171 yards. He tied for 22nd.
“We came into this not knowing how we would finish,” Thayer Plewe said. “Robert was adding a lot to the team. Obviously, his injury hit our team hard. But we had a lot of clutch players today. (Brunner) with his personal best, a freshman with his personal best shooting in the 80s, those scores really helped us out.”
Nick Mahaffey shot a 94 for the Panthers. He ended his day on a high note with a birdie on 18, a par-4 that played 342 yards. His score tied for 32nd in the 65-player field.
“For Nick, this is his first time going to regionals, and he qualified for state,” coach Plewe said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
A year ago, it was Blake Keetch of Montezuma-Cortez who won the regional. Thayer Plewe was second. Now, he is the regional champ with his eyes squarely on a much tighter course layout of Dos Rios Golf Club in Gunnison for the CHSAA Class 3A State Golf Championships, which will be held Oct. 5-6.
“I don’t know a lot about it, but I’ve heard it’s tight off the tee box,” Thayer Plewe said. “We have to keep it in play. Our team is going to practice for that. Just because we had a really good tournament at regionals doesn’t mean we can’t get better. We all know that. We will keep practicing and work hard to go post a good team score at state.”