Steamboat Springs The members of the Steamboat Springs High School golf team opened the second round of the state golf tournament Tuesday with hopes of shaving a few strokes and moving into the top three.
The Sailors didn't do either at the Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield, but they held onto fourth place - the best Steamboat finish since 2002, when the Sailors finished second.
"Today, the golf course won," Sailors coach Steve Dodson said. "But this is a heck of a finish for these players. For us to come in fourth place with the kind of competition we were up against bodes well for the program and proves that these kids can play golf.
"I'm really proud of all four of them. As a group, we can hold our heads high. We finished the season strong by playing well in Cortez, and we finished well down here."
Steamboat senior Billy Taylor rebounded after a sluggish opening round to lead Steamboat with a 77. Michael Weston, Kaelen Gunderson and Scott Ptach shot 80 on the final day. The team finished with a combined score of 237, one stroke better than fifth-place Peak to Peak.
"I feel really good about how I played today," Taylor said. "I was 1-under par through five, so I had a good start. I finished way stronger than I did Monday, which was a goal of mine. I just wanted to get into the 70s. I did, so I'm happy about it."
Kent Denver's golf team also was happy Tuesday afternoon after winning the team title with a cumulative score of 429, thanks to a solid showing by Beau Schoolcraft, who was the top scorer both days of the tournament. Schoolcraft shot an opening-day round of 69, and followed it up with a 68 on Tuesday to win the individual title. Kent Denver's Matt Schovee finished second in the individual scoring.
Kent Denver was 29 strokes better than second-place finisher Pueblo Centennial (458) and 31 strokes in front of third-place Greeley Central (460). Steamboat finished six strokes behind Central.
After Tuesday's round, the four Steamboat players couldn't help but think about some of the strokes they left on the course.
"After playing so well yesterday, there was a little more pressure in today to do the same," Gunderson said. "My tempo was off, but I wasn't as nervous as I was yesterday. But I got into a lot of trouble today - I wasn't swinging well today."
Gunderson still managed to post the best two-day score for the Sailors at 154. Weston was at 155, and Taylor was at 157. Ptach shot 163 in his first state appearance.
"I shot a 39 on the back nine, so I started out really good. I only had 14 putts, so I was getting up and getting down," Ptach said. "But then I went to the front nine and kind of fell apart. It was just the last four holes that got me - if I had shot par on those holes, I would have finished with a 76."
The story was similar for Weston, one of two seniors on this year's team.
Weston started out strong, but lost confidence in his swing halfway through the round.
"I kind of lost my swing," Weston said. "I felt really confident at the beginning of the day, but for a few holes there I didn't know what was going on. I got it figured out at the end, but it was too late."
Weston was even through the first six holes and one over going into No. 9. But he said it was at that point that he lost confidence in his swing.
"The swing wasn't that good on No. 11, and after that, I started hitting it right," Weston said.
But despite an 80 in his final state tournament round, Weston ranks this season among the best of his high school career.
"It's been an awesome season," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better senior season. It's sad that this is my last tournament."
Following the round, Dodson praised his team's effort this season and said the players came further this year than anyone expected thanks to hard work and some help from the community.
"For use to have total access to four courses, have their support and allowing us to practice and play is a gift," Dodson said. "We are very fortunate to have that kind of support. "