With the first 18 holes of the Colorado High School State Golf Championships in the books, Sailor Paul Berry knows that consistency will determine this year's 4A state champion.
"The state champion is going to be the player who gets the job done both days," Berry said. "This year's state champion is going to be the most consistent player in the field."
Three strokes, 18 holes and the tournament's leader, Adam Joiner of Roaring Fork, are all that separate Berry and the 2005 Individual High School State Crown. Berry, who has proven to be the most consistent player this season on the Western Slope with the lowest stroke average, will be hoping to avoid some of the problems he faced in Monday's opening round, which he salvaged after scoring a birdie on No. 17 and an eagle on No. 18.
He finished in second place with an even-par round of 70.
"I saved it," Berry said. " I set a goal to save this round, and I was able to come up with the shots I needed to do it."
Although Berry's run to the finish saved his round, like most of the golfers in this year's state tournament, he struggled to make putts on the Wellshire's recently aerated greens.
"It was hard," Berry said. "It would be like driving your car down a road filled with pot holes. You never knew were the ball was going to go."
Berry said he tried not to let the conditions of the greens affect his round, but it wasn't easy.
"You could choose a line, but it was hard not to second guess yourself," he said.
Berry struggled on No. 9, a 145-yard par 3, after missing a short putt that drifted off course after hitting a rough spot in the green. He also struggled on the 212-yard, par-3 No. 14. But he was able to pull it together down the stretch to save his score.
Berry was one of three golfers from the Western Slope in the top four after Monday. Joiner is in first at 67, Berry is in second at 70, and Aspen's Teddy Karlinski, the golfer Berry edged out in a tiebreaker at the regional tournament, is tied for third with Greeley Central's Nick Umholtz at 71.
"I don't know why I shot so well," Joiner said. "I'm really confident right now, and I think it's because the golf courses on the Western Slope are so much harder. When we come down here, the courses seem so much shorter and flatter. It was a big boost to my confidence."
Joiner, Berry and Karlinski will all tee off at 10:27 a.m. today in the same group. Umholtz will be grouped with Jeremy Trujillo of Pueblo Centennial and Dane Rice of Pueblo West for the final 18 holes. Both of those golfers finished the opening round tied at 72.
Berry was the top Steamboat golfer in Monday's opening round. Teammates Michael Weston finished at 84, Cody Fritz shot an 85, and Tucker Campbell finished at 87 to give Steamboat a team total of 239.
Greeley Central is leading the team standings with a score of 219. Pueblo West is in second at 221 and Kent Denver is third at 224. Colorado Springs Christian School is fourth, Cheyenne Mountain and Yuma are tied for fifth.
Although coach Steve Dodson said the team had hoped for a better showing in the team standings, he thought the event was a valuable experience for his young team.
"We came down here with a freshman, sophomore and two juniors," Dodson said. " I think this tournament has done them a world of good."
Dodson was impressed with the play of Fritz -- the team's youngest member. Fritz finished the first nine holes with a score of 38 but found some trouble on the back side.
"My back nine was horrible, but I had a pretty good front side," Fritz said. " I had a good drive on No. 10, but then I shanked my second shot. It made me mad, and I think I let that get into my head, and it hurt me for several holes."
Dodson said it was also a disappointing day for Weston and Campbell, who never really got on track.
"The greens were a problem for me," Weston said. "I had a lot of birdie opportunities, but I couldn't get my shots to fall."
Campbell said Monday's round was disappointing after having one of his best showings of the year at the regional tournament in Craig 11 days ago.
"I think the layoff really hurt him," Dodson said. "When you don't play in a tournament for that long, you kind of lose your momentum."
Still, Campbell wasn't letting Monday's round get him down. He plans to get back to work today and to make the most of his first state tournament experience.
"I'm going to try not to look back," Campbell said. "I just want to put up a good score (today)."