Denver -- After a full season of high school golf and 36 holes of tournament play against the best juniors in the state at the Wellshire Golf Course, the race for the 4A state title came down to three golfers.
For Steamboat Springs High School junior Paul Berry, dreams of bringing that title home came down to one swing on the first playoff hole.
After finishing Tuesday's round tied at 142 strokes with Greeley Central's Nick Umholtz and Aspen's Teddy Karlinski, Berry's tee shot on the No. 1 hole brought a quick end to his quest to win the individual state title.
The tee shot sailed down the left side of the fairway, over the No. 10 fairway and landed just a few feet out of bounds.
"Those things happen," a disappointed Berry said after the tournament. "I'm not sure what happened. My setup was comfortable, and I just tried not to guide the shot."
Berry said he knew the shot was to the left, but he was surprised to discover that it had gone out of bounds.
"It didn't feel that bad, and I knew I had some room over there," Berry said. "If it wouldn't have gone out, I would have been able to make a pretty good shot from there."
But because the ball landed out of bounds, Berry was forced to take the penalty and go back to the tee box. He rebounded by hitting his second drive in the middle of the fairway and making bogey on the par-five hole. But it wouldn't be enough. Umholtz and Karlinski birdied the hole.
Berry, a golfer who rarely shows his emotions on the course, was visibly disappointed after shaking both golfers' hands and exiting the green. Five holes later, Umholtz, a freshman, won the 4A crown after Karlinski missed a short putt. Umholtz was crowned champion, and Berry and Karlinski were awarded second-place medals.
The unexpected ending overshadowed an otherwise promising day for Berry.
Berry opened the day in second place after finishing with a 70 on Monday. He eagled the first hole and birdied the second to pull into a race with first-round leader A.J. Joiner of Roaring Fork. By the time Berry reached the No. 7 hole, he held an advantage over Joiner and Karlinski, who started the day one stroke behind Berry.
But after hitting what looked like a perfect tee shot on No. 7, Berry was treated to his first bout of bad luck when he couldn't find his ball. He was forced to return to the tee box and finished the hole with a triple bogey.
"Seven was tough," Berry said. "I felt like I had a great tee shot, but I could never find my tee shot."
Karlinski took advantage of Berry's troubles, and the two golfers headed to the back nine in a neck-and-neck battle. Joiner struggled on several holes on the front side and lost ground on the leaders. The title race came down to Berry and Karlinski in the last group and Umholtz in the group ahead. It was a three-way tie by the end of the round.
"We all made some dumb errors," Berry said. "But I felt pretty good about the round. It just didn't work out today."
The three golfers headed to the playoff, where Berry made his quick exit.
"It's a tough way to lose," Steamboat coach Steve Dodson said. "But Paul's a class act. He could have just quit, but he went back up to the tee box and gave it his best shot."
Dodson said he was proud of all four of his golfers. As a team, Steamboat finished 12th, one stroke better than Golden.
Berry led the team Tuesday with a round of 72. Freshman Cody Fritz turned in his best round of the season, a 79. Tucker Campbell shot an 82, and Michael Weston shot an 83.
"We had a terrific regional and a terrific season," Dodson said. "I can't say enough about these kids and what they accomplished on the golf course this season."
The team title went to Greeley Central, which finished with a two-day total of 434. Kent Denver placed second at 443, and Colorado Academy was third at 448.
-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org