Sailors move into fourth

Kaelen Gunderson steps up game and leads golfers

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— Steamboat Springs High School's golfers still have a few surprises in their bags.

Led by sophomore Kaelen Gunderson, the Sailors enter today's second and final day of the state tournament in fourth place.

"Kaelen Gunderson blew my expectations away," coach Steve Dodson said after Monday's opening round. "That kid can flat out roll the rock, and he made everything today."

Dodson and assistant coach Scott Berry were thrilled to see Gunderson, one of two sophomores on the team, break through on the opening day of the 4A Boys State Golf Championships at the Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield. Gunderson finished with a round of 74 to lead Steamboat.

The Sailors also got help from Michael Weston, who shot a 75, and Billy Taylor, who despite a triple-bogey on the final hole finished at 80.

Sophomore Scott Ptach also had a chance to finish in the 70s, but a rough go on No. 9 (his final hole of the tournament) dropped him out of the scoring at 83.

"Every one of our players was solid today," Dodson said. "We had a few hiccups along the way, but we really didn't have a blow-up hole."

The Sailors finished with a team score of 229. Thanks to Beau Schoolcraft's 69, Kent Denver (215) leads the team standings. Kent Denver is followed by Greeley Central (221) and Pueblo Centennial (225).

Kent Denver also got help from Matt Schovee, who fired an even-par round of 71, and BJ Smith, who added a 75.

Schoolcraft leads the individual standings. Schovee is second at 71, tied with Greeley Central's Nick Umholtz, St. Mary's Will Percy, and Pueblo West's Zane Covey.

Peak to Peak's Jay Tymkovich and Rock Canyon's Brendan Connolly shot 72. Parker Edens of Greeley Central and Chad Novak of Pueblo Centennial are at 73. Gunderson is tied with four other golfers at 74.

"I was slowing down a little bit, and my swing felt better," Gunderson said. "But my putting was the best part of my game today."

Berry, who has been working on Gunderson's swing all season, admits he never expected the sophomore to led the team on the first day. He said Gunderson played a very smart round and looked relaxed and confident on the green.

"This is a big stage, and Kaelen handed the pressure really well, and so did Michael," Berry said. "Both players stepped up their game today."

Gunderson had only 27 putts on the round.

"I'm not usually that consistent with my putting," he said. "I'll have a good day, and I'll have a bad day. This was definitely one of the best day's I've ever had with my putter. I think this was a breakthrough day, and it felt great."

Weston, usually the team's low golfer, also came out strong on the first day.

"It started out really good, but I had some trouble in the middle of the round," Weston said. "I had a bogey streak, but I finally broke that and finished out pretty strong. Overall I would say it was a pretty good day, and I'm happy that I was able to come back and finish well."

The Sailors also got a strong showing from Taylor, who started on the back nine.

"I started out pretty shaky, but I came back with three birdies and then fell apart the last three holes," Taylor said. "I think the last three holes are the hardest holes on the course. I wish I could have got them out of the way early, but it happens."

Dodson was pleased with the Sailors' results Monday, but even more impressed with the way his players handled themselves on the course.

"I was real proud of the way our players carried themselves on the golf course and their sportsmanship." Dodson said. "This was one of our lowest team scores of the season, and at 229, we are right in the hunt.

"But more importantly, I want our players to keep their composure and enjoy the moment. They have to look around and remember this day because there are no guarantees we will ever make it back - especially the seniors, because this is their last rodeo. I was real pleased with what took place today with their sportsmanship and their play."

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