by Gary Baines
Dillon Stewart has accomplished plenty in his junior golf career, particularly during a stellar last several months.
But there's at least one major item left on his to-do list regarding Colorado junior golf, and the opportunity to check it off his list comes early next week.
The Fossil Ridge senior, who plans on signing a national letter of intent with perennial college powerhouse Oklahoma State later this fall, has yet to win a state high school title. He finished second last year as now-Colorado State University player Davis Bryant prevailed. In previous seasons, Stewart placed 16th in 2016 and 19th as a freshman in 2015.
But Stewart has certainly put together a record in recent months that point to him as the player to beat next week:
-- He won the individual title at the prestigious Junior America's Cup competition, leading Colorado to its first team championship ever in that event.
-- He became the first boy from Colorado to prevail at the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior.
-- He also qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur and won an AJGA event in Montana.
-- And just last week at Murphy Creek Golf Course, Stewart fired a 9-under-par 63 in winning the 5A Northern Regional state qualifying tournament by five shots. He posted a 7-under 29 on the front nine and was an amazing 11 under through 15 holes before bogeying 16 and 17. He finished ith 11 birdies and two bogeys on the day.
Stewart will be among 84 players competing in the Class 5A state tournament at Colorado Springs Country Club on Monday and Tuesday. That will be one of two 36-hole state tournaments held in Colorado Springs on those days as the 4A meet is set for The Club at Flying Horse. The 3A tournament is scheduled for Boulder Country Club.
Here's a quick look at what to expect from each of next week's boys state tournaments:
-- 5A at Colorado Springs Country Club: Stewart will be one of four top-10 finishers from the 2017 5A state tournament who will be competing in Colorado Springs. The other three -- all of whom tied for sixth place, are Connor Jones from Mountain Range, Ryder Heuston of Fairview and Beam Boonta of Cherokee Trail.
Among the other qualifiers for the 5A state field are Valor Christian's Jake Welch, who beat Stewart by two at the Colorado Junior Amateur over the summer, and U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier Chris Kennedy of Smoky Hill. Welch shot a 68 to win the 5A Central Regional at Legacy Ridge. Valor Christian played in 4A last year, when Welch placed seventh at state, but now is in 5A.
Team-wise, Regis Jesuit will be going for its fourth consecutive 5A championship, eighth in the last nine years, and 10th overall. Meanwhile, at its regional meet, Fossil Ridge shot 6-under 210 to win at Murphy Creek.
-- 4A at The Club at Flying Horse: Only two players who finished in the top 10 in last year's 4A meet are back to compete in the same tournament at Flying Horse -- and both are from Montrose. That would be Micah Stangebye, who tied for fourth, and Jordan Jennings, who finished seventh. Those two players tied for the lowest 4A regional tournament scores this year, matching 69s at Indian Peak in 4A Region 4.
Others who will be competing include TJ Shehee of Mead, a 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier who won the 4A Region 3 tournament at the Olde Course at Loveland; and Kaden Ford of Discover Canyon, who competed in the Drive, Chip & Putt Nationals at Augusta National in April.
Montrose, winner of the 4A team title last year and the runner-up in 2016, figures to be a strong contender for another championship. The Indians shot a regional-best 2-under-par 214 at Indian Peaks to win 4A Region 4.
-- 3A at Boulder Country Club: Davis Long of Peak to Peak will be the only 2017 individual state high school champion back to defend his title last week. Last year's state tournament at Indian Peaks was limited to one round due to weather.
Long is one of seven top-10 finishers in the 2017 3A state tournament returning for this year's meet. The others were Walker Franklin of Prospect Ridge (tied for second), Dominic Lanese IV and Derek Holmes of Aspen (fourth), Peter Grossenbacher of Eaton (fourth), Jackson Klutznick of Kent Denver (fourth) and Billy Howenstein of Dawson (fourth).
Along with Stewart -- and current college players Bryant and Cal McCoy -- Franklin was part of the Colorado team that won its first-ever Junior America's Cup title over the summer.
Peak to Peak won't be able to defend its team title in Boulder as the Pumas only qualified two players for state. They prevailed last year in a playoff over 2016 champion Kent Denver. It was Peak to Peak's second team title in three years.
Meanwhile, Kent Denver will be seeking its 10th boys state championship next week.
This will be the second high school state tournament hosted by Boulder CC in the last four-plus months as the 5A girls meet was held there in late May.
For Monday's tee times at all three state tournament sites, CLICK HERE.
Here are the teams and individuals that won regional state-qualifying tournaments last week:
5A Southern at Murphy Creek GC -- Team: Arapahoe 3-over-par 219; Individual: (tie) Jack Tickle, Arapahoe, 71; Riley Rottschaefer, Arapahoe, 71; Brandon Bervig, Liberty, 71.
5A Central at Legacy Ridge GC -- Team: (tie) Fairview 7-over-par 223 (won team playoff); Valor Christian 223; Individual: Jake Welch, Valor Christian 68.
5A Western at GC at Redlands Mesa -- Team: Ralston Valley 9-over-par 225; Individual: Ryan Bomareto, Horizon 71.
5A Northern at Murphy Creek GC -- Team: Fossil Ridge 6-under-par 210; Individual: Dillon Stewart, Fossil Ridge 63.
4A Region 3 at Olde Course at Loveland -- Team: Evergreen 17-over-par 233; Individual: TJ Shehee, Mead, 71.
4A Region 1 at Shining Mountain -- Team: Coronado 39-over-par 249; Individual: Andrew Merz, Coranado 76.
4A Region 4 at Indian Peaks -- Team: Montrose 2-under-par 214; Individual: (tie) Micah Stangebye, Montrose, 69; Jordan Jennings, Montrose, 69.
4A Region 2 at Eisenhower's Silver Course -- Team: Ponderosa 24-over-par 240; Individual: Mac Konrad, Ponderosa 76.
3A Region 2 at CommonGround -- Team: Kent Denver 2-over-par 215; Individual: Jacob Mason, Holy Family, 67.
3A Region 1 at Hollydot -- Team: Colorado Academy 16-over-par 229; Individual: Cody Schrock, La Junta, 70.
3A Region 3 at Boomerang -- Team: Eaton 8-over-par 224; Individual: Peter Grossenbacher, Eaton, 70.
3A Region 4 at Dos Rios -- Team: Aspen 1-over-par 214; Individual: Jack Hughes, Aspen 70.