Monday, September 28, 2009
Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Luke here.
Golf, in its purest form, might be the most character-defining sport. It's a gentlemen's game where players are expected to keep their own score, not cheat and make sure their playing partners don't cheat.
But the great thing about golf is that the difference between being a great golfer and a run-of-the-mill hack is simply 5 inches. I'm talking about the 5 inches between a golfer's ears. That short distance can make the difference between a good round and a horrible one.
On Tuesday, those 5 inches defined the season's fate of Steamboat Springs High School golfers Kaelen Gunderson, Scott Ptach and Alan Capistron.
Although Steamboat finished in second place in the regional tournament at Haymaker Golf Course and didn't technically qualify for the state tournament as a team, the growth and maturity of Steamboat's three golfers shined through.
All three finished in the top 12 and qualified for the Oct. 5 and 6 state golf tournament at Highlands Ranch Golf Club in Littleton.
But the way the three did it made it all the more impressive.
Each encountered points in Tuesday's round where things could have done a 180-degree turn. They certainly did for some of the tournament's other players, who saw one bad hole destroy their psyches and their rounds.
But for Steamboat, one bad hole - or even a string of them - was just a minor blip in the grand scheme of things.
Battling weather more suited for hot chocolate and a fireplace than 18 holes of links-style golf, each Sailor proved to manage his nerves better than most high schoolers.
Take Gunderson, who came into the tournament as one of the favorites to win. After shooting even on the front nine, Gunderson missed a 2-foot putt on No. 10 for par and flubbed a chip into the hazard after a perfect drive on 11.
He went on to make double-bogey there and put one in the hazard on the next hole and made another bogey.
Gunderson, despite the bad run, finished with a 76.
Ptach battled a string of four bogeys in a row on the back nine, before getting things on track with a birdie on No. 17. He shot 78.
Capistron was playing well on the back nine before he got to No. 16. He hit his drive left, his approach long and left, and encountered a downhill pitch with little green to work with. After he mishit his first chip, he left himself 15 feet for bogey. He canned it, made an 8-footer on 17 for par and went on to shoot 79. One shot worse and he finds himself in a playoff for a berth to the state tournament.
That perseverance is why Steamboat is a threat come the state tournament. Each of the three players could have let bad holes derail his round. Heck, guys they were playing with let a few mental mistakes ruin rounds and chances of qualifying for state.
But Steamboat's 5 inches were much better than those of any other teams.
So when the Sailors take to Littleton in a week, they'll be in the hunt. They won't crumble under the pressure, and they won't let a few bad holes ruin the their tournaments.
They'll take those 5 inches between their ears and use it to their advantage.
- To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail email@example.com