The fall of 2020 felt like a lifetime ago as the opening tee shots were hit at the Colorado Springs Country Club.
The Doherty Spartan Invite marked the official start of high school competition for several Southern Colorado teams, as well as a few Class 5A teams from Denver and Fort Collins that wanted to get a feel for the site of the 2021 state championship tournament.
Among the many things that have changed in the last year is the mindset of Cheyenne Mountain’s team. Last year’s group, which returns three players from its state championship team, worked its way to its first boys golf team title since 2004. This year, they come into the season with the burden of defending that title on a neutral course, not their home course at the Country Club of Colorado.
But a new year requires a new focus. The COVID-19 protocols that were in place last year are gone. There is now a competitive edge in playing in groups consisting of kids from other schools rather than teammates. And above all else, the team can have a fresh perspective with a mascot change.
The Indians claimed last year’s 4A championship. The Red-Tailed Hawks? They haven’t accomplished anything. Yet.
“That’s probably a pretty good angle to go off of,” coach John Carricato said. “The angle I did take is that the sooner we turn the page, the better off we’ll be for this year.”
Above all else, the team knows that a championship has to be earned and it has to come on Day 1 of the season. The Hawks put together a solid team effort,
They put together a steady performance that netted them a team win at the Spartan Invite. Kale Parthen and Thomas Herholtz each shot a 5-over-par 76 to finish in a tie for fifth. Carter Surofchek and Campbell Grage were one shot off their teammates, each finishing with a 77.
Liberty’s Hayden Woelk shot a 69 to win the individual title.
“There are still a ton of good teams out there,” Parthen said. “We can’t just assume that we’re the best out there because we won state. We can’t have too much confidence.”
In some ways, Monday’s performance provided a steady reminder that golf can be a humbling game. Parthen stuck an approach shot to four feet on the ninth green before shoving his putt by the hole and having to clean up for par.
Surofchek also felt some putting woes. He stuck it to seven feet on the 14th hole only to end up with a double-bogey. The guys make have their champions status from a year ago, but there is still plenty of work to be done if the Hawks want to go back-to-back.
“You have to stay in the moment; I was thinking ahead there,” Surofchek said. “You have to go at one speed and hang on to your emotions and everything. That’s what we need to do the whole season.”
If nothing else, the players were just grateful to see a return to some normalcy with high school golf. Pairings were made based on players competing against other schools and at times, the flag stick came out of the hole as kids lined up their putts.
The game was played in the manner that it should be played through the course of a season.
“It was nice having two years of high school golf under my belt (before COVID),” Coronado senior Noah Keller said. “That transition was easier. I also like because it brings a more competitive atmosphere to tournaments. I also like to pull the pin so that’s a nice benefit to have.”
Keller finished in a tie for second as he shot 73. He hopes Monday is just the first step toward him getting to City Park in Denver in early October for the 4A state tournament.
“I love starting my year here,” Keller said. “It’s a course I know really well. I’m getting ready for City Park and state is the goal. I have some stuff I need to work on but it was a good start today.”