The ball soared through a slight breeze under a clear blue Cortez sky at Conquistador Golf Course on Tuesday afternoon.
It was an atmosphere like that at Augusta, Ga., and The Masters.
As the dimpled white ball sliced through the air, there was silence. A deafening anticipation as the ball sailed over a tree and honed in on the 18th green. Coaches, golfers and parents stood by. Waiting, hoping and marveling at the shot.
Then, one hop, two hops, and the ball disappeared. Conquistador went wild.
Hayden Plewe let out an ecstatic “yeah!”
Keith Hawkins and Tristan Shelby sprinted up the fairway to mob Jakob Rudosky in celebratory fashion.
It was Rudosky and his trusty wedge that launched the shot. The talented junior had just sank a 115-yard shot out of the rough on the 18th hole for an eagle. A hole which was arguably the most difficult at the 4A Western Slope Regional Tournament.
“That’s why he’s ranked No. 1 (in the 4A Western Slope Region),” said Plewe after Rudosky’s enormous eagle rumbled into the Par-4 18th hole.
It was no run-of-the-mill 115-yard wedge shot out of the rough. The shot helped propel the Panthers to their third-straight Regional title.
But even after Rudosky’s ball vanished into the cup, the outcome was still in doubt.
Rifle High School’s Danny Bartels saw his 10-foot birdie putt rim out.
Rudosky hugged Plewe, while some of the crowd cheered and some groaned.
Host Montezuma-Cortez High School won.
The day was as thrilling as Rudosky’s final shot.
It took a one-hole team playoff against Rifle and Rudosky’s miraculous eagle to win.
The Panthers are going back to state.
“I didn’t even know how far I needed to play that,” said a happy and relieved Rudosky.
A short time after the adrenaline had subsided, Rudosky talked about the spectacular shot.
“The wind was a little in my back. I wanted to land it right on the front of the green or just short, so it’d run up. It was pretty hard out today. They were running pretty far by,” he said about the fast greens at Conquistador.
“I hit it right where I wanted to, got on the perfect line and it just went right in.”
The skillful shot displayed what champions are made of. M-CHS was pushed to the brink by a tough Rifle Bears squad.
“You come to the playoffs, you got to buckle down. You got to do what you got to do,” said Rudosky, a junior at Dolores High School. “This is the first playoff we’ve been in.”
Rudosky shot par with a second-place total of 72, which ties his high mark of the season. The team captain won last week at the two-day Durango Invitational, shooting 73 and 76 (149) to help the Panthers win the team title.
M-CHS now has its eyes on the big prize — winning a state championship on Oct. 1-2, at Cobble Creek Golf Course in Montrose. Jakob Rudosky, who is the son of Panthers’ head coach Micah Rudosky, will make his third state tourney appearance in as many years in his stellar high school career. He tied for 25th as a sophomore, shooting 76 and 78 (154), and tied for 18th his freshman year with scores of 77 and 75 (152).
Rudosky finished in a tie for second, two shots behind Palisade’s Kyler Smith, who won his second-straight individual Regional title.
Last year, the Panthers placed fourth at state and in 2010, the team was second.
Rudosky and his teammates are riding high with confidence at the right time.
“Maybe the third time’s a charm. That would be nice if it was. We’re going to go battle,” Rudosky said about state.