Steamboat Springs When Kaelen Gunderson walked off the 18th hole at Haymaker Golf Course on Tuesday, it was impossible to tell he hadn't played much golf this summer.
The rising senior, who has been a stalwart on the Steamboat Springs High School golf team the past two years, had done something he'd never done before.
Gunderson shot a 3-under-par 69, giving him the lowest round of his career.
"Tuesday, I was putting pretty well," he said. "I don't really know; I guess I was just starting with a game plan."
If that game plan continues to work this season, the Sailors could be competing for a spot at the state tournament.
In addition to Gunderson, Steamboat returns junior Alan Capistron and senior Scott Ptach from last year's squad. Gunderson and Ptach qualified for the state tournament last season.
When practice begins Monday, the three veterans will be expected to provide stability and leadership for the team.
"I feel less pressure," Capistron said. "I mean, I was really nervous last year."
Despite a summer filled with baseball games and basketball camps, Capistron said he would get to play three or four times a week at Steamboat Golf Club. He said going into this season, an added comfort level has him looking for a big season individually and as a team.
"I think I am better because I'm older," Capistron said. "I should probably play better. Anything in the mid-70s or high-70s, I'm happy with."
Ptach, who will miss the first few weeks of the season while he is at a ski camp in Switzerland, might have had the most impressive summer. Ptach played a lot of golf and improved immensely.
At the Haywhacker tournament earlier this summer, Ptach showed the reason he's one of Steamboat's top golfers. He shot a 77 on the second day, including five birdies and a triple bogey on the usually easy No. 8.
"I'm playing good," Ptach said after his June round. "I don't think I've had that many birdies in a round. I'm giving myself good opportunities; I just need to work on my short putting."
With the regional tournament slated for Sept. 22 at Haymaker, Steamboat should have every opportunity to put a team through to the state tournament. Although Montrose probably enters the season as the favorites. Steamboat's three returning varsity players said that with regionals being on their home course, the Sailors should be the favorite.
The key will be finding strong No. 4 and 5 golfers to round out the varsity squad. Still, with Gunderson, Ptach and Capistron all a year older, it's hard not to like Steamboat's chances.
"I think we lost some good players last year from other teams," Gunderson said. "I think there is definitely still some shooters this year we need to worry about. But I think we have a really solid team."