The Panthers golf team officially teed off Monday morning in defense of their Western Slope region championship.
Coach Micah Rudosky and his boys have been here before.
Theyll have to defend their title and make their way to state without the prior team captain.
After winning the Western Slope title in 2010, Montezuma-Cortez High School graduated then senior captain Brian Grubbs. He now golfs for Saint Peters College in New Jersey.
The Panthers drove on and defended their region title in 2011.
Now, last years captain Chris Aiken golfs for Colorado Mesa University.
M-CHS returns three state qualifiers from its 2011 team that placed fourth at the 4A State Championships in Windsor.
With just one senior in state returner Keith Hawkins, the Panthers are heavily favored to win the competitive Western Slope again.
Hosting regionals at Conquistador Golf Course on Sept. 18, really helps, too.
Having us hosting the regionals, we have a great shot at it, said Rudosky, who is also the club professional at Conquistador Golf Course. We have some good teams out there. Durango, Montrose, I mean, theyre the same ones that are tough year after year. But so are we. I think well have a nice advantage being at our home course.
Oh, and this seasons CHSAA State Championships is also in familiar territory at Cobble Creek Golf Course in Montrose.
We play these courses every year, so the kids know exactly what theyre getting in to, said Rudosky, who is assisted by Todd Plewe. Were good enough. We just need to work hard throughout the season. Hopefully, were working on these guys to peak at the right time.
However, first thing is first. Coach Rudosky has to finalize his top-five before teeing off the season Monday, Aug. 13, at the Grand Junction Tiger, Bookcliff Invitational. Sophomores Ryan Aiken, Tristen Shelby and Levi Gross, and junior Terrance Yarbrough are vying for varsity spots.
Were going to do our best to get these kids out to play like we did last year, Rudosky said. It sure helps them to get in those tournaments and get some experience. Im looking at all these kids to step up. These kids will push each other.
Along with Hawkins, state qualifiers Hayden Plewe (sophomore) and junior captain Jakob Rudosky make up the remaining lineup. The two Dolores High School students were busy this summer playing in tournaments. Jakob Rudosky feels he improved over the summer. He narrowly missed the cut for the Colorado Open by two strokes.
Jakobs father is satisfied with the summer play of some of his team.
That can only help us, Micah Rudosky said. Its nice to get away and be fresh coming into the season. I dont think they overdid it.
Having a junior captain means that hell be back next season. Jakob Rudosky has embraced his role.
I like knowing that I need to keep playing good, so they (teammates) keep respecting me, he said. Taking the place of (Chris) Aiken is pretty hard, but Ill be fine.
M-CHS will also golf two tournaments in Montrose next week on Aug. 15-16. The Panthers come home to host the M-CHS Invitational at Conquistador Golf Course on Aug. 22, before driving to Pagosa Springs Aug. 23.
Tournaments at Delta (Aug. 29), Montroses Cobble Creek Golf Course (Aug. 30) and Durango (Sept. 10-11) precede regionals.
We have a lot of pressure, especially since its at our home course, said Jakob Rudosky about the Panthers winning regionals again. Everyone is probably saying, Cortez, you know, you got to beat them at regionals. We got to come here and defend at our home course.
Coach plans to take the Panthers to tournaments in New Mexico when the schedule permits to keep his team in shape. Playing out of state has no bearing on the teams Colorado ranking.
Were close by getting in some competition. Thats what we need to do, Micah Rudosky said.
The road to state starts next Monday.