The Panthers golf team of Chris Aiken, Jakob Rudosky, Hayden Plewe and Keith Hawkins endured a 2011 season of ups and downs.
Montezuma-Cortez High School was definitely up a week ago when the Panthers won the 4A Western Slope Regional championship at Rifle Creek Golf Course.
The Panthers are going back to state.
“It's a big deal,” said Jakob Rudosky, a Dolores High School sophomore who finished with the lowest average score among 4A Western Slope golfers at 73. “It's important that we go. Everyone that goes to state, colleges start looking at you.”
Jakob Rudosky and Chris Aiken, No. 5 on the Western Slope with an average of 75, are the only state returners. Plewe will make his state debut as a freshman, and Hawkins, a junior, will make his first appearance after being left out of the top-4 last year.
“I'm extremely excited that I get to make state this year,” said Hawkins, who medaled Aug. 30 at the Deer Creek Village Golf Club in Cedaredge. “Last year, I just didn't quite make the cut. This year, I'm really excited that I finally made it. I didn't really show up at regionals, but I'm planning to do something at state.”
Hawkins is aiming for two days in the low to mid 70s at the state tournament.
Plewe, also a DHS student, tied for second at regionals with a 76. He feels his game came on strong toward the end of the regular season.
“I've got a lot to learn from these guys,” Plewe said. “I've had a couple of rough rounds this year, but I came back and shot a couple of great rounds. I'm looking forward to state a lot. I'm just hoping I can keep myself under control and just keep the numbers low.”
The golf courses M-CHS competed on in the Western Slope are nothing like what the team will face next Monday and Tuesday at the Colorado High School Activities Association 4A Boys Golf State Championships in Windsor. The Panthers will compete among the best in Colorado at Pelican Lakes Golf Club. The 12-year-old, 18-hole championship-style golf course built along the Poudre River, has more shoreline than any other course in the United States. Pelican Lakes has five water-quality-controlled lakes, and golfers must play across the Poudre River four times. Not one Panther has experience at Pelican Lakes. The fairways are extremely narrow, so the boys are working on pinpoint driving accuracy.
“Instead of trying to pull that driver, like you want to, you got to take your medicine a little bit, instead of going all out,” Plewe said. “Sometimes, instead of a driver, it might be a 5-iron. You got to play the course, instead of trying to beat the crud out of the course.”
Chipping and putting will be key, too.
“You're definitely going to have to keep it in the fairway. But, ultimately, it's going to come down to short game, like it always does,” said Aiken, who medaled Aug. 25 at the Pagosa Springs Golf Club. “We'll practice hard on the short game here. That's how you win it.”
One man with experience is the head coach and club professional at Conquistador Golf Course, Micah Rudosky.
“I know the course well and can kind of steer these kids around a little bit, knowing their game,” he said. “I think that will be a little bit of a benefit for us. I'll have them hit certain shots and go through holes with them, like we do on the driving range — as if you're out there on the course playing a hole.”
Micah Rudosky describes the front-9 at Pelican Lakes as “generous,” but said the 17th and 18th holes are “very difficult.”
“On 18, I don't know if there's really a harder tee shot in the state,” he said about the final par-4 hole. “You have to really place that tee ball to try and go for the green.”
The Panthers will travel to Windsor on Friday and practice over the weekend. The boys barely managed one practice round of 18 holes at Flying Horse Golf Club in Colorado Springs a year ago, which, still, resulted in a second-place state finish. M-CHS is hoping more practice will make perfect this time around.
“I think we'll do well at state,” said Aiken, the lone senior. “It's nice to win regionals, but that's not our ultimate goal. Hopefully we can get a state championship this year.”
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at firstname.lastname@example.org.