Steamboat trio prepares for state golf tourney |

Steamboat trio prepares for state golf tourney

Luke Graham

Steamboat Springs High School golf team members, from right, Scott Ptach, Kaelen Gunderson and Alan Capistron walk down the first hole at Rollingstone Ranch Golf Club. The three are playing at the state golf tournament Monday and Tuesday at Highlands Ranch Golf Course in Littleton.

— They’ll say it’s all about fun and enjoying the moment, but delve a little deeper into the thoughts of Steamboat Springs High School golfers Scott Ptach, Kaelen Gunderson and Alan Capistron, and it becomes evident there is more at stake during Monday and Tuesday’s state golf tournament.

Ptach and Gunderson have been to the state golf tournament the past three years, and Capistron will make his maiden voyage.

Still, the three have been some of the most consistent golfers on the Western Slope all season.

Gunderson has been a threat to win any tournament he has been in, and Ptach and Capistron are capable of shooting low.

So when the three get inside the ropes Monday at Highlands Ranch Golf Course in Littleton, what exactly will be the goal?

“I feel different this year just because the last two years my goals were never to place top three,” said Gunderson, who had an average stroke score of just more than 72 on the year. “Last year, my goal was just to shoot in the 70s. This year, just like any other tournament, my goal is to win.”

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That could be said for any of the three Steamboat golfers. Although they didn’t qualify for state as a team at regionals, the three scores will allow them to get into the team race. Judging by other regionals and team scores from the year, Steamboat could be in the race for a team title if a few things go right.

But coach Steve Dodson said he doesn’t want to put that pressure on his team. Although he knows what each golfer is capable of, and in turn what the team is capable of, he said Monday and Tuesday are more about the experience than the results.

“I don’t want to pick a number,” Dodson said. “I’ve always said you play the golf course and beat the golf course, good things will happen on the leader board. I’m not going to concern myself too much on where I want them to place. They’ve got their own goals. We’ll focus on taking care of business hole by hole.”

The Highlands Ranch course should provide the Steamboat trio with a new challenge. The Hale Irwin-designed course will have some of the toughest greens the Sailors have seen all season.

Steamboat golfers were scheduled to get their first look at the course today during a practice round. Dodson said the team would come up with a game plan tonight to attack the course.

“I think it’s really going to take somebody with an all-around strength in their game to do well,” said Andy Benson, the head golf professional at Highlands Ranch. “Long hitters won’t overpower the course.”

Even without knowing the field of players, Benson said he would be surprised if any golfer scored very low. Highlands Ranch hosts a collegiate women’s tournament every year that features some of the top female golfers in the country. This year the winner shot 2-under-par. Benson said he’d expect the winner Tuesday to be in about the same range.

He said the key stretches for golfers would be holes 7 through 10 and 14 through 17.

There, he said, is where the tournament could be won or lost.

“The course is in the city, but it isn’t exceptionally long,” Benson said. “I don’t think anyone will rip it up. I haven’t seen that happen in the past, at least.”

For Steamboat, it’s an opportunity the team is embracing. It will be Gunderson and Ptach’s last competitive high school tournament and the first state tournament for Capistron, a junior. They’ve all conceded that although it’s nice to do well, it’s even better to enjoy.

“They’ll remember this Monday and Tuesday the rest of their lives,” Dodson said. “It’s just important to prepare them the best we can.”

State golf tournament at a glance

Steamboat’s golfers:

Scott Ptach

Favorite club: 3-wood

Favorite distance: 110 yards

Favorite golfer: Anthony Kim

Key to state: Relax

Kaelen Gunderson

Favorite club: 60-degree wedge

Favorite distance: 100 yards

Favorite golfer: Phil Mickelson

Key to state: Have fun

Alan Capistron

Favorite club: 5-wood

Favorite distance: 110 yards

Favorite golfer: Adam Scott

Key to state: Putting

Highlands Ranch Golf Course:

The Hale Irwin-designed course is a par 72 slated to play more than 7,000 yards. Despite being built in Littleton, the course has little of the city feel. It offers golfers a bit of everything. The key might be the greens at Highlands Ranch. The course features undulating fast greens that probably will be rolling at a 10.5 or 11 on the Stimpmeter – a device used to measure how fast the greens are. For comparison, anything more than 10 on the PGA tour is generally considered fast.