John F. Russell: Sailors prove no ‘I’ in team |

John F. Russell: Sailors prove no ‘I’ in team

— They don’t give trophies to the fourth-place team at the state high school golf championships, but after watching the Steamboat Springs High School golf team in Broomfield, I think they should.

For years, Steamboat Springs golf teams have proven the program is a powerhouse on the Western Slope. Because of the team’s top showings, the squad has made regular appearances at the 4A state championships for more than five years.

But when it comes to state, Steamboat normally plays in the shadows of more elite teams..

In 2002, Steamboat shocked some of the powerhouse schools when it placed second – the best finish ever for a Steamboat team.

The squad’s finish, much like this year’s team, was a complete effort.

Since then, the Sailors have had a couple of teams make runs, but not a serious run. Steamboat hosted the state tournament at the Haymaker last year, but the team finished near the bottom of the results.

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When the team returned to the course last August, the idea of making it back to state was a long shot at best. There was no question this team had less tournament experience.

That coupled with the fact that squads from Basalt and Montrose flexed their muscles early in the season may have led to some doubts. But coach Steve Dodson and assistant Scott Berry never lost faith.

They continued to work with Steamboat’s young players. By the time the squad made it to regionals in Cortez, they not only believed they would qualify for state, but also proved it in one of the most competitive regional tournaments in recent memory.

This team was scrappy, unselfish and hard working. The Sailors proved that they could get the job done without a major star to carry the team.

This was a team that relied on all of its players to find success on the golf course. The approach defined the team all season, and when Michael Weston, Billy Taylor, Scott Ptach and Kaelen Gunderson got to the state tournament, they continued to rely on each other.

On the first day it was Gunderson who picked up the slack and led Steamboat to its best position in recent memory. He got help from Weston, who also finished with a top score to put the Sailors within reach of the podium. Taylor, who struggled on the first day, rebounded on the second day with one of the best scores of his golfing career. Weston, Gunderson and Ptach all turned in respectable scores, but it was not enough to boost the team in the standings.

From the outside, the Sailors’ finish might have seemed like a disappointment. After all, in today’s sports-minded world, winning is all that counts. But this team’s – and I mean the whole team’s – pursuit of the title was impressive. It wasn’t just one person carrying the torch, but four guys who came to rely on one another through the good and the bad.