Steamboat Springs golfers go into challenging state tournament with positive mindset | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs golfers go into challenging state tournament with positive mindset

Steamboat Springs senior Tommy Henninger putts during a home invitational on Thursday, Sept. 5 at Haymaker Golf Course.
Shelby Reardon

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Up until this past weekend, Steamboat Springs High School senior Tommy Henninger was the only current Sailors golfer who had competed in a regional or state tournament.

Now, four Sailors have not only participated, but won a regional. The win is sending Henninger, regional champion Beck Kuhlman, sophomore Travis Seitz and freshman Colin Kagan to state on Monday, Oct. 7, and Tuesday, Oct. 8, at The Bridges Golf Course in Montrose.

Ahead of the competition, Henninger is helping his younger teammates stay level headed.

“State is what is is. It’s the season finale,” he said. “You go there, give it your best, and if you don’t play so well, you just enjoy the time and know there’s always next year.”

The attitude has come from hearing head coach Andrew Donner refer to the state tournament as a bonus many times, a belief he still echoes and will continue to do so until his golfers have recorded their final strokes. 

“I always think it’s way more stressful to play regionals because you have four or five hours to qualify for the state tournament. Whereas the state tournament, you’re playing two days of golf, and no matter what you do, there is no other day,” Donner said. “This is gonna be great, it’s gonna be fun, it’s gonna be a good experience, but they’re gonna go out there and compete.”

Kagan, the youngest of the four Sailors, isn’t greatly affected by nerves. Kagan, an alpine skier, is used to lining up at a starting gate and barrelling down a mountain at high speeds on two slippery sticks. A state golf tournament is nothing.

“It definitely helps with the nerves,” Kagan said. “In ski racing, I get super nervous, and I’m used to that in golf. I’m not as nervous as my other teammates say I maybe should be.”

Steamboat Springs golf schedule
  • Aug. 21: at Black Canyon, 6th
  • Aug. 22: at Cobble Creek, 11th
  • Aug. 26: at Bookcliff, 11th Aug. 27: at Tiara Rado, 10th
  • Aug. 28: at Rifle Creek, 4th
  • Sept. 3: at Aspen, 2nd
  • Sept. 4: at Yampa Valley, 5th
  • Sept. 5: Haymaker, 4th
  • Sept. 17: at Vail, 1st
  • Sept. 19: at Keystone, 10th
  • Sept. 26: at Coyote Creek
  • Oct. 7-8: State

The boys in red took second at the 2018 state championship and are keeping an open mind going into state. Henninger said finally getting the best of Montrose, who won last year, would be the best way to end his high school golfing career.

“We haven’t really beat Montrose, yet, since I’ve been playing,” Henninger said. “I’m hoping to maybe do it on their home turf and kick some butt.”

Confidence and club selection

After their winning performance at regionals, the Sailors are feeling as confident as ever, and Donner hopes the team can carry that into their final performance. Still, he said there’s always room for improvement. His golfers have shown they can drive the ball with little to no trouble. Still, he sees room for improvement. 

“We spent a lot of this week focusing on short game: 50, 75, 100 yards in, just dialing up our scoring a bit,” Donner said. “This golf course we’re gonna go play is tougher.”

Steamboat Springs head coach Andrew Donner watches as junior Beck Kuhlman hits an approach shot during a home invitational on Thursday, Sept. 5 at Haymaker Golf Course.
Shelby Reardon

The Bridges is long, hilly and full of hazards. Putting and chipping will be especially challenging because of the sloping greens, which the Sailors don’t see often. With that, chips will bounce and roll differently, and a missed putt from above or a below a hole could end up farther away than where you started if it goes awry. Donner said club selection will require careful consideration.

“It’s got a little more length to it, the greens are more undulated. I’m guessing the greens are going to get sped up,” Donner said. “They’re gonna do things, which I think they should, to make the golf course play a little harder since it’s the state tournament.”

To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.


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