Steamboat Springs Five golfers from Steamboat Springs High School will head to Parachute Wednesday hauling bags full of woods, irons and expectations.
"This is the next piece of the puzzle for our team," coach Steve Dodson said of the regional golf tournament, which will take place at Battlement Mesa. The golfers are scheduled play a practice round Wednesday followed by the one-day tournament Thursday.
Steamboat won the tournament last season but followed up with a disappointing 13th-place finish at the state event in Alamosa. Montrose, who finished second at the regional, went on to win the state title by seven strokes over Mullen.
"Of course we are expecting to win it," Steamboat golfer Paul Berry said. "That has been our expectation for every tournament this year."
It also is no secret that one of Berry's goals is to return to the state tournament and improve on the rounds of 80 and 78 he shot last year.
But Berry is the only member of last year's team guaranteed a return trip.
Two of the golfers from that three-man team are fighting for a spot in the regional rotation and one of them will be cut before Thursday's round.
Steamboat's Hans-Peter Bacher, Berry and Ryan Brees, are guaranteed places on the team based on their stroke average this season -- but that is not the case for Tucker Smalley and Kenton Gamache. Both golfers played in the state tournament in 2003.
Those two players will compete in Wednesday's round, but only the golfer with the lowest score will earn a spot on the regional team.
"It's like a tournament inside another tournament for those guys," Dodson said. "I knew it was going to come down to something like this at the start of the season. We have five guys who could win on any given day ... that's why expectations have been so high for this team."
Although Dodson said he would love to have all five represent the team at the regional and state tournaments, the rules only allow four members per team.
"The bad news is that we only get to take four guys," Dodson said. "The good news is that all four of our players will have a shot at winning."
Dodson said the par-72 Battlement Mesa golf course is one of the most challenging in the state and requires a great deal of patience.
Steamboat played the course earlier this season and all three players scored in the high 70s. Dodson said the team would have to improve if it wants to win.
Golfers will need to be accurate if they hope to avoid well-placed bunkers and water. They also will have to deal with sloping fairways and undulating greens.
Berry, who has not played the course this season, said he knows the course well and expects it to test all of the golfers.
"I've learned you have to be patient on every course,' Berry said. "I don't know what the keys to winning will be. We just need to go down there and do our best and then see what happens."
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