by Gary Baines
Boys golf produces the first state champions of the high school athletic year in Colorado, so there's always something special about it.
And the 2018 state tournaments didn't disappoint in producing memorable results:
-- There was Aspen, a school that uses the nickname "Skiers", winning its first state team championship in boys high school golf as it prevailed in the 3A tournament at Boulder Country Club.
"We've been looking for that banner for a long time," coach Mary Woulfe said. "We put the banners up in the gym for the state championships, and there's been a big hole missing for us. We've had a lot of really good teams and we've had great teams in years Kent Denver has just buried us. It's been like, 'Wow, what do we need to do?' But the guys knew we were on a mission for this."
-- There was senior Dillon Stewart of Fossil Ridge filling a hole on his golf resume by rallying from four shots behind on the final day to win his first state title in his final day of high school golf. That victory at the 5A meet at Colorado Springs Country Club was a fitting culmination to a golf season in which Stewart won individual and team championships at the Junior America's Cup and notched two victories in AJGA events. And to add to Stewart's accomplishment, he led Fossil Ridge to its first state team title in boys golf.
"It feels great, especially after what happened last year (finishing second to Davis Bryant, who's now playing at Colorado State University)," Stewart said. "I give credit to him -- he's a good player -- but I'm finally kind of doing what he did in taking second his junior year and winning his senior year. It feels good this time. And we won as a team this year, so it feels even better."
-- There was senior Jackson Klutznick of Kent Denver, once a standout tennis player, who made such a successful transition to high-level golf that he won the 3A individual title Tuesday in Boulder.
Klutznick was once the top-ranked tennis player in the state for boys age 12-14, but something his tennis coach told him caused him to give up that sport and put much more emphasis on golf.
"He told me that when I'm playing tennis, I need to be hating the person on the other side of the net," Klutznick noted on Tuesday. "I came down to the decision, I didn't want to do that. That's not me. I golf, you're telling (your playing partners) they hit a great shot or an awesome putt. You're not trying to bring them down. I thought that was a much more positive mindset to be in than trying to hate the person I'm playing against."
(At left, Klutznick is congratulated by coach Bob Austin.)
-- And then there was Montrose sweeping the team and individual championships in the 4A meet at The Club at Flying Horse in Colorado Springs. The Indians won the team title for the second straight year, while junior Micah Stangebye prevailed by five to become the school's first individual state champion in boys golf.
Here's a look at how the three boys state tournaments went down on Tuesday:
-- 3A AT BOULDER COUNTRY CLUB: On a day that only one player broke par -- Billy Howenstein of host Dawson, with a 1-under 69 -- Klutznick emerged from the battle of attrition with the individual trophy. The senior shot a 2-over-par 72, giving him a winning total of 1-under 139, good for a three-stroke victory.
"This means a lot," said Klutznick (left), who finished fourth in the 3A state tournament each of the past two years. "I was going through a time (this past summer) where I really didn't want to play anymore. I was done. I had too much practice with no results. I had eight or nine tournaments planned and I told my dad I'm not playing in any of them.
"But in the middle of the (high school) season, I realized it's not so much about where you end up as it is being surrounded by people you want to be there with. These are some of the nicest guys I've ever played with in my life. It was unbelievably meaningful
to have my team behind me and so many good people behind me. It really meant a lot."
Klutznick overcame a double bogey on No. 8 -- where he hit a ball out of bounds -- to play his final 10 holes in 1 under. He pitched to within a foot of the hole on the par-5 12th to make birdie and go ahead for good, and added another birdie on 16 before three-putting for bogey on 18 where the champion had already been decided.
"I'm so proud of Jackson," said Bob Austin, who has coached Kent Denver to eight state team titles, though the Sun Devils finished second on Tuesday. "He's worked as hard as anybody I've ever had.
"He's a tough kid and he hits the shots when he needs to hit the shots. I'm happy to put him up there with the other Kent individual champions (Oliver Jack, Ben Moore, Ethan Freeman twice, Beau Schoolcraft and Kevin Stadler). I've been very fortunate to coach a lot of great players at Kent Denver, and his name is among those great players. I couldn't be prouder."
Klutznick won just one other individual title this high school season and has no offers to play college golf -- at least not yet.
"I was very surprised" to win the state title this week, the 17-year-old from Denver said, noting that this victory stood apart as the biggest thing he's accomplished in golf.
Junior Walker Franklin of Prospect Ridge was the last major challenger to Klutznick down the stretch on Tuesday. He was even-par for the tournament through 33 holes, but a pulled tee shot and a three-putt from 3 feet on the par-4 16th led to a triple bogey and the end of his title hopes after placing second last year.
"I don't even know what happened," he said of the 16th hole. "I just hit a bad tee shot, and a bad shot led into another one. Trying to make a putt, I slammed it by. I just couldn't control my emotions.
"I'm disappointed. It's just like a repeat of last year, just not being able to pull through. It just didn't go my way."
Franklin finished tied for fourth at 144 with Aspen's Jack Pevny (left).
Jack Hughes of Aspen ended up taking second place at 142 despite drawing a two-stroke penalty for hitting a wrong ball. Hughes shot an even-par 70 on Tuesday.
Taking third place was the 2017 champion, Davis Long of Peak to Peak, who also carded a second-round 70 to check in at 143.
Peter Grossenbacher of Eaton, who carded a sterling 65 on Monday, struggled to an 82 on Tuesday to share 10th place at 147.
With Aspen (below) putting two individuals in the top four, the Skiers overcame nine-time state champion Kent Denver for the team title. Aspen -- with a team comprised of Hughes, Pevny, Dawson Holmes and Dominic Lanese IV -- finished with a two-day total of 14-over-par 234, which was nine better than Kent Denver. Holy Family was third at 457.
"Jack Hughes said to me (prior to the season), 'Mary, our team is going to win a state championship this year,'" Woulfe said. "He's an exceptional player. He's always played very aggressively, but there were times today he pulled out an iron because it wasn't about him, it was about his team. That's really impressive.
"The big question (about this team) has always been, 'Are these guys that good?' And they just proved it today. Kent Denver is incredibly difficult to take down in 3A."
-- 5A AT COLORADO SPRINGS COUNTRY CLUB: Stewart, who will sign a letter of intent this fall to play his college golf at national powerhouse Oklahoma State, showed his stuff on Tuesday by shooting a 5-under-par 66, the best score of the tournament by two strokes.
Stewart trailed by four going into the final round, but rallied by making six birdies and one bogey on Tuesday. And he finished with a flurry, holing a 20-foot birdie from the fringe on No. 17 and getting up and down from a greenside bunker on No. 18, draining a 3-footer for birdie on the final shot of his high school career.
That gave Stewart a two-stroke victory over first-round leader Connor Jones of Mountain Range, who outdueled Stewart for the season-long league title this year.
"There was no doubt in my mind this morning that I could post a good number -- and I posted the number I needed to post," Stewart said. "I knew I had to shoot in the 60s -- and not just 69."
Jones, who was 5 under par for the tournament through 30 holes, held the advantage until well into the back nine. But he played his final six holes in 3 over par, while Stewart birdied his last two.
"The birdie putt I made on 17 was probably the biggest putt I made all week," Stewart said. "Connor was waiting on the tee box behind us. He saw that from the tee box and was (probably) like, 'Damn.' So that was a really good point in the day that kind of shifted things.
"But Connor played really good all year, so I knew it was going to be tough today. Me and him went back and forth in matches all year."
Stewart finished with a 4-under 138 total at Colorado Springs CC, while Jones checked in at 140 after a closing 72. Ty Findlow of Valor Christian placed third at 144.
Team-wise, Stewart's Fossil Ridge squad prevailed by five for the school's first state title in boys golf. It finished at 24-over-par 450, a handful of strokes ahead of Lakewood, six better than Arapahoe, and eight better than Regis Jesuit, which had won seven of the past eight state titles.
-- 4A AT THE CLUB AT FLYING HORSE IN COLORADO SPRINGS: The big prizes went to Montrose on Tuesday at Flying Horse.
Stangebye, who led by four going into the final round, wasn't seriously challenge as he was steady as a rock in a 1-under-par 71 day. The junior finished with four birdies and three bogeys on Tuesday, giving him a 4-under 140 total for the tournament.
Stangebye's two rounds -- 69-71 -- were the best two of the week at Flying Horse.
Mac Konrad of Pondersa took second place at 145 after closing with a 72, while TJ Sheehee of Mead was third at 147 after a second-round 73.
With Montrose putting four players in the top 25 individually, the Indians successfully defended their 4A team title. This time, they finished at 19-over-par 451, six strokes better than runner-up Steamboat Springs. Palmer Ridge (468) placed third.
Here are the top team and individual finishers at the three tournament:
CLASS 5A AT COLORADO SPRINGS CC
1. Fossil Ridge 229-221--450
2. Lakewood 223-232--455
3. Arapahoe 229-227--456
4. Regis Jesuit 231-227--458
5. Valor Christian 236-223--459
1. Dillon Stewart, Fossil Ridge 72-66--138
2. Connor Jones, Mountain Range 68-72--140
3. Ty Findlow, Valor Christian 74-70--144
4. Ryan Liao, Lakewood 71-74--145
5. Brandon Bervig, Liberty 72-74--146
6. Tarek Salem, Highland Ranch 73-75--148
T7. Jonas Graham, Chaparral 77-73--150
T7. Bo Wardynski, Regis Jesuit 77-73--150
T7. Ryder Heuston, Fairview 76-74--150
T10. Chris Kennedy, Smoky Hill 77-74--151
T10. Carson Kerr, Grand Junction 76-75--151
T10. Caleb Busta, Arapahoe 75-76--151
T10. Riley Rottschaefer, Arapahoe 76-75--151
CLASS 4A AT THE CLUB AT FLYING HORSE IN COLORADO SPRINGS
1. Montrose 221-230--451
2. Steamboat Springs 229-228--457
3. Palmer Ridge 234-234--468
4. Ponderosa 241-236--477
5. Mullen 239-240--479
1. Micah Stangebye, Montrose 69-71--140
2. Mac Konrad, Ponderosa 73-72--145
3. TJ Shehee, Mead 74-73--147
T4. Jack Rotermund, Steamboat Springs 73-76--149
T4. Traejan Andrews, Northridge 73-76--149
6. Hunter Swanson, Northfield 77-74--151
T7. Mario Dino, Mullen 79-73--152
T7. Jake Chesler, Frederick 78-74--152
T7. Kellen Kudrna, Mead 74-78--152
T10. Oliver Rotermund, Steamboat Springs 77-76--153
T10. Drew Laake, Palmer Ridge 79-74--153
T10. Ethan Whidden, Durango 76-77--153
CLASS 3A AT BOULDER COUNTRY CLUB
1. Aspen 214-220--434
2. Kent Denver 215-228--443
3. Holy Family 225-232--457
4. Eaton 235-237--472
5. The Classical Academy 242-234--476
1. Jackson Klutznick, Kent Denver 67-72--139
2. Jack Hughes, Aspen 72-70--142
3. Davis Long, Peak to Peak 73-70--143
T4. Jack Pevny, Aspen 68-76--144
T4. Walker Franklin, Prospect Ridge 71-73--144
T6. Jacob Mason, Holy Family 74-71--145
T6. Billy Howenstein, Dawson 76-69--145
T8. Jeffrey Zhou, Kent Denver 75-71--146
T8. Liam O'Halloran, The Classical Academy 72-74--146
T10. Carlo Pine, Telluride 70-77--147
T10. Westin Pals, Lutheran 75-72--147
T10. Peter Grossenbacher, Eaton 65-82--147