By Gary Baines
Bob Austin helped put the Cherry Creek boys golf team in the record books, and he had a hand in removing the Bruins as well.
Austin played on two of Creek's state title-winning teams -- in 1970 and '71 -- as the Bruins went on to set the record for the most boys golf state team titles in Colorado, with eight.
But on Tuesday in the 3A state meet at Saddle Rock Golf Course in Aurora, with Austin serving as the head coach of the host Kent Denver squad, the Sun Devils took sole possession of the aforementioned record, moving out of a tie with Cherry Creek.
Kent Denver (pictured celebrating) has now won state crowns nine times since 1999, and Austin has been the coach for eight of those nine -- two in Class 4A and six in 3A. (With its sixth win in the last seven years in 5A on Tuesday, Regis Jesuit joined Creek with eight state championships.)
And to double the fun for Kent on Tuesday, Sun Devils junior Oliver Jack (left) won a playoff to claim the 3A individual championship.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Austin said. "I'm really choked up. I really wanted this for these kids. We finished second the last two years. I wanted to get over that hump. The kids, I couldn't be prouder of them. They played awesome. It was really fun. This might be the sweetest (state title) of all."
And that was just one of the three state tournaments that concluded on Tuesday around the state. The others were just as notable:
-- In the 4A meet at River Valley Ranch Golf Club in Carbondale, the individual title also was settled in a playoff, this one denying defending champion Jackson Solem of Silver Creek from becoming just the fifth two-time Colorado boys state high school champion since 1995. The first-round leader, junior Luke Trujillo of Discovery Canyon, parred the second playoff hole to defeat Solem and claim the title. And Trujillo helped Discovery Canyon win a boys state golf team championship for the first time. Three-time defending champ Valor Christian was third.
-- In the 5A tournament at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction, senior Kyle Pearson of Highlands Ranch put on a clinic as rounds of 66-67 gave him a 9-under-par 133 total and a six-stroke victory over Davis Bryant of Eaglecrest. Moreover, Pearson made a hole-in-one Tuesday en route to the title, acing the 136-yard 15th hole with a gap wedge. And, as noted earlier, Regis made it six 5A team titles in seven years. And perhaps the most remarkable thing about that is that each of the last two victories have come by one-stroke margins.
Back at 3A, the two players who finished tied for second in the state tournament last year were the ones in a playoff on Tuesday: Jack and Ivan Richmond of Estes Park. Richmond birdied the 17th hole in regulation to pull even, and both players bogeyed No. 18, with Jack three-putting.
But on the par-5 556-yard playoff hole, Jack hit his drive 30 yards beyond where his ball traveled on the same hole earlier Tuesday, and he had just a 7-iron for his approach into the green. Richmond, meanwhile, pulled his tee shot into a hazard and needed four shots to get to the front fringe. He three-putted from there for a double bogey. Jack, meanwhile, sank a 4-foot birdie for the victory.
"This means a lot," said Jack, a 16-year-old who has already verbally committed to play his college golf at the University of Colorado. "A state championship is something I always wanted to win. Words can't describe the feeling. Nothing means more to me than winning this. And it's great for the team (too)."
Richmond (left), meanwhile, was thinking of what might have been.
"Obviously the tee shot (in the playoff) wasn't the greatest," he said. "Nerves and all that stuff were just going through my brain. It was bad.
"Obviously I wanted to win here. It would have been pretty special."
Jack shot an even-par 72 on Tuesday -- not counting his playoff birdie -- and finished at even-par 144. Richmond closed with a 71 to get to that same total.
"I was really excited for Oliver," Austin said. "I thought Oliver was the best player coming in, and I told him that. And I thought if we were going to win, the best player needs to win individually -- and he did. He's such an unbelievable talent and such a great kid
"(Winning both titles) was a huge thrill. The last two hours, I'm probably more nervous than I've ever been in my life."
Joining Jack in the top 10 individually for Kent Denver on Tuesday were sophomore Jackson Klutznick (148, fourth place) and freshman Ben Zimmerman (153, 10th place). Rounding out the Sun Devil team was senior Jack Friedman (162, 25th place).
Placing third individually on Tuesday was Peak to Peak's Ethan Tartaglia, who posted a 72 for a 146 total. Yale Kim of the Dawson School, the 2014 champion, shared fourth place with Klutznick at 148.
Kent Denver, which finished at 13-over-par 445, had a battle to win its eighth team title since 2006. Defending champion Peak to Peak took second place at 448.
In the 5A tournament, the team race was even closer as Regis Jesuit's 10-over-par 436 total just edged Highlands Ranch by one.
Individually, Pearson was the only player to post two rounds in the 60s at Bookcliff. Besides his hole-in-one eagle, he made four birdies and two bogeys on Tuesday. For the two days, he racked up 10 birdies plus the eagle.
Bryant, a U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier last year, was very much in contention through 10 holes Tuesday as he had made a birdie and nine pars and stood 6 under overall. But he went 3 over par the rest of the way, shot 73, and had to settle for runner-up with a 3-under 139 total.
First-round leader Nick Caldwell of Rock Canyon was the only other player to finish under-par for two rounds, in his case at 140, good for third place. He made an eagle and a birdie on Tuesday, but also seven bogeys in a round of 75.
In 4A, Solem rallied from four behind going into the day to force a playoff in his bid for two straight individual championships. But after both players parred the first extra hole, Trujillo made a par on the second playoff hole to prevail as Solem missed his 6-foot par attempt. Both players finished at 4-under-par 140 overall, with Solem closing with a bogey-free 69 (though his blemish-free day ended on the second playoff hole) and Trujillo a 73.
Trujillo led by three strokes with four holes left in regulation, but a double bogey on 15 and a bogey on 18 forced the playoff.
Cole Krantz of Windsor was also in the thick of the title race, but back-to-back bogeys on 15 and 16 led to a third-place finish, one out of the playoff. Krantz played his first seven holes in 4 under par on Tuesday, making an eagle on the 325-yard seventh hole.
Discovery Canyon ran away with the 4A team title. Its 6-over-par 438 total was 15 strokes better than runner-up Montrose.