The Steamboat Springs High School golf team has been waiting for this day for more than a month.
"We are on our way to Alamosa and state," coach Ryan Barclay said after the Sailors captured the regional title Wednesday in Montrose.
Steamboat's Ryan Brees (74), Kenton Gamache (74) and Paul Berry (76) combined to give the Sailors first place in the region for the second straight year with a team score of 224. Montrose placed second at 230, and Montezuma Cortez came in third with a team score of 231.
For the veteran Brees, Wednesday's round couldn't have come at a better time.
After struggling in the early part of the season, the junior came through at the regional tournament with his best round of the season. It was also a season-best for fellow junior Gamache.
"I played really well today," Brees said. "I just kept the ball in play all day, and I finally stepped it up."
For Brees and Gamache, the trip to Alamosa will mark the players second trip to the state championships in two years. Berry also will be making the trip, thanks to his round of 76.
Steamboat's fourth golfer, Tucker Smalley, however, finished too far off the pace set by the qualifiers to make the state tournament field. As a result, Steamboat will only have three golfers (meaning all three rounds will count) on this year's team. A Colorado High School Activities Association rule requires the members of a qualifying team to finish within 10 strokes of the last individual qualifier at the regional. Smalley's uncharacteristic round of 92 leaves him out of the running, Barclay said. He needed an 88 to make the cut.
In 2002, Steamboat made its first appearance as a team at the state championships and placed second to Mullen. The state tournament is Sept. 29-30.
"It's been my personal goal, and the team's goal, to get back to state all season," Brees said. "Everybody on the team is pretty excited right now."
Berry said he was satisfied with his round at regional but is not entirely happy with where his game.
"Things are getting better, but I'm still leaving a lot of strokes out on the course," Berry said.
The freshman said he went through a mid-season slump and is just starting to come out of it.
However, Berry said he was thrilled to be making the trip as a freshman and was even happier that the Sailors qualified as a team. Only the top two teams, and top seven individuals not on one of those teams, qualify for state.
The top individual -- Shea Sena of Cortez -- won the tournament with an 18-hole total of 69. Brees and Gamache tied for second along with Montrose golfer Shide Kellen. Berry was sixth.
Berry and Smalley were named to the Western Slope All-Conference team as honorable mentions following the regional tournament.
-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
or email firstname.lastname@example.org