Steamboat works to stay loose before state

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Cody Fritz: 9:24 a.m.Michael Weston: 9:33 a.m.Tucker Campbell: 9:42 a.m.Paul Berry: 9:51 a.m.

— If members of the Steamboat Springs High School golf team are uptight about next week's state golf tournament, they didn't show it while hitting golf balls at Catamount Ranch & Club on Wednesday.

Jokes, good-natured ribbing and laughter filled the air as the players hit a steady stream of golf balls towards practice targets set up on the driving range.

"I'm sure I'm going to get nervous," freshman Cody Fritz said. "But I've been too busy thinking about what club I'm going to hit off the tee, where I want to hit the ball or play a particular shot to get nervous. I think that will come once I get to the first tee or after that."

Fritz will be one of four players representing regional champion Steamboat at the state golf tournament Monday and Tuesday. Junior Paul Berry, sophomore Michael Weston and junior Tucker Campbell also will make the trip to Wellshire Golf Club in Denver.

Three of the four Sailors will be making their first appearance at the state tournament. Berry, who is ranked in the top 10 in the state and is expected to be in the hunt for an individual title, is the only returning player from last year's state qualifying team. This will be his third state appearance.

Berry finished in a three-way tie for 10th at last year's state tournament, which was played at the County Club of Colorado in Colorado Springs.

Berry said last year's experience has little to do with this year's round.

"Every year is independent," Berry said. "What happened last year is in the past. Some of the top golfers will be there again, but for the most part, it's a different field."

This year's field includes defending champion Cheyenne Mountain and a powerful team from Kent Denver.

Steamboat isn't favored to win the state crown. But the team wasn't favored to win regionals last week, either.

"It's a good place to be," Weston said. "There's not a lot of pressure to win because nobody is expecting much. It's a chance for us to get some experience, and if we play well, who knows what can happen?"

Weston said he would be happy to finish his season with a couple of 70s, but he is just hoping to have some fun and enjoy the experience.

Weston's round of 80 and Campbell's 76 put Steamboat over the top at last week's regional tournament. Both players are hoping for a repeat.

"I've never played in a two-day tournament," Campbell said. "I'm just going to take it one hole at a time. If I have a bad hole, I'll just be hoping to come back on the next one."

Steamboat coach Steve Dod--son thinks the tight fairways of the Wellshire course favor the Steamboat team, which often practices on a similar layout at Steamboat Golf Club.

"Ball placement is going to be key," Dodson said. "Our players are going to have to stay in the fairway to have success."

Assistant Scott Berry agreed.

He has played the Wellshire course several times in the past and said that the top golfers may not get the chance to recover from a mistake.

"This isn't the type of course that's going to separate the field," Berry said. "One or two mistakes could make the difference."

-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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