Sailors in Longmont for state golf tournament
Class 4A state golf tournament
Where: Fox Hill Club in Longmont
When: Monday and Tuesday
Who: SSHS is sending three to state, all seniors. Britt Walton (10:57 a.m.), Will Firestone (10:48 a.m.) and Jack Starkey (10:39 a.m.) are each part of the final three groups to tee off from the first hole on Monday.
Steamboat Springs — As returning state participants, Steamboat Springs High School golfers Britt Walton and Will Firestone are putting a little more pressure on themselves than fellow senior Jack Starkey, who heads to the final dance for the first time.
“I’m just happy to be going,” Starkey said. “I’m not putting a ton of pressure on myself. For me, the most pressure was at regionals. State, I don’t know, for me, at least, it’s less of a big deal.”
The Class 4A state golf tournament gets underway Monday morning at the Fox Hill Club in Longmont, the first of two days used to decide the best high school golfers in Colorado. The senior trio Steamboat is sending each qualified as an individual after the Sailors came up short in a playoff to Durango during their regional two weeks ago at Haymaker Golf Course.
However, it was Walton’s 71 that claimed the individual regional crown that day, with Firestone’s 73 taking second. Starkey shot 79 to tie for eighth, with the top 13 not from Durango making the state cut. SSHS senior Noah Bass, despite a solid 83, was the only regional team member to miss qualifying.
“I thought that was our best performance, overall, of the season,” SSHS golf coach Andrew Donner said of regionals. “For these guys, I think the hard work has paid off. I really hope they enjoy the experience. State is a cool deal and I feel good. I think we are going to play well. I think if we play well we can really compete.”
While state will be a new experience for Starkey, it’s familiar ground for the other two. The Sailors took fifth as a team in 4A last season — played at Walking Stick Golf Course in Pueblo — with Walton shooting 3-over-par to finish tied for sixth to lead Steamboat. Firestone was 15-over and tied for 23rd, second best on the team.
In 2013, Walton took 30th at state, while Firestone did not compete. As a freshman in 2012, Walton was attending Glacier High School in Montana, where he was a reserve for a team that won the boys’ Class AA state championship.
Now, Walton has dreams of ending his high school career exactly where it began — with a state title.
“I’ve been playing well all year. I’ve probably shot under par more than I’ve shot over par,” Walton said. “Obviously winning state is a goal. I’m trying to work on playing college golf. I’m talking to coaches, so definitely placing high, top three, would be helpful for my future.”
The Sailors had a chance to get a practice round in at the Longmont course on Sunday. It was Starkey’s first time on the course, but not so for the others. Donner has played the course a few times prior, giving him good insight to tell the kids, and both Walton and Firestone competed in an American Junior Golf Association amateur qualifier over the summer at Fox Hill.
“I like the fact they are expecting good things. They are really good golfers. All three of these guys can play golf,” Donner said. “Not to say it’s a cocky attitude, but I think if you are going to play a good round of golf, in your mind you have to tell yourself you’re good. And I think that’s what they are doing, and I think that’s a good thing.”
And, it seems, the tournament organizers are also expecting good things. Walton will tee off at 10:57 a.m. Monday morning from the first hole, part of the final foursome, usually reserved for those with the best chance at winning. Firestone tees off at 10:48 a.m. from the first hole, part of the group playing directly in front of Walton’s. Starkey is right in front of them, with a 10:39 a.m. tee time.
“Britt, I think he’s a No. 1 seed, so if he plays well, he might win,” Firestone said. “As long as I work hard the next couple of days, we will probably have a big state tournament. It’s the last tournament of my career, maybe. I’ve just got to give it everything I got the next couple of days.”
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