Gunnison was beautiful in so many ways!

As I stood near the fairway of the par 5, 16th hole at Dos Rios Golf Club in Gunnison on the second day of the Boys Golf State Tournament, I thought Colorado Academy had a chance to win the state title. The Mustangs, Juniors Jack Pashel and Bo Turnage and Sophomores TJ Giordano and J.T. Timmers, were fighting to stay in contention at the top of the leaderboard.

Timmers, CA’s final golfer of the day, hit a beautiful tee shot within 15 yards of a lake that was positioned directly in front of the 16th green. Turnage, playing a few groups ahead of Timmers, had been clutch down the stretch, going birdie, birdie, birdie, par on the last four holes, to keep CA near the lead. Pashel, who was one group ahead of Timmers, had hit a beautiful tee shot to start 17 and birdied that hole. Timmers had turned in a career-best during the first round of the tournament, and he was, on the second day, again leading the team down the stretch with another fine round. So I was hopeful.

But when J.T.’s second shot on 16 skipped into the lake, leading to a double bogey, I was resigned to a probable second place and the knowledge that it would still be the highest finish in the history of the boys program.

A little history

Coach Beth Folsom has coached the CA Boys Golf Team for 22 years, and she has had tremendous success coaching a number of strong teams and individuals, but CA had yet to win a team Boys Golf State Championship. I was proud of the boys and how they represented the school and hung in there throughout the competition, and I would have been content, even if they came home with a hard-fought second place.

The players and coaches, however, still believed they had a chance to win the tournament. They had, in fact, prepared for the moment by strategizing about the pivotal holes on the course and mapping out a plan. Eighteen is a difficult finishing hole, where strokes can add up quickly with an errant tee shot or an over-aggressive approach. Knowing that the tournament could very well come down to the last hole, the team had committed to staying conservative on 18.

Turnage made a clutch par, while Pashel chipped out of trouble in the trees and made bogey. More aggressive play by other teams led to higher numbers for them. Needing to make something happen to keep CA in the running for the championship, Timmers stepped to the 18th tee box, looking to par this tricky final hole. In fact, he did par 18, with an incredible chip to get within inches of the hole, putting pressure on his fellow competitors.

The two top teams stood even, as the last group of the day teed off on 18. As Coach Folsom says, “You aren’t playing against a person—it’s everyone against the course.” Thanks to some great coaching and strategizing and some outstanding play on the final holes, the Mustangs did the best job of playing the course. They brought home the first Boys Golf State Championship in the history of the school, much to the jubilation of the parents who had made the trek over the mountains to cheer the team.

Cool under pressure

The CA boys’ support for each other and their belief in their game and game plan carried them through the challenges of the two-day tournament. The fact that the Mustangs could stay cool under pressure and continue to grind and make birdies and pars down the stretch on the second day was a testament to the boys and their resolve. This attitude and demeanor will certainly pay dividends down the road for this group, regardless of the arena in which they find themselves. Athletics and competition have a way of revealing character, and I have found that golf, as well as many other sports, truly does uncover honesty, integrity, and mental toughness.

If you get a chance to congratulate one of the members of this team, please do so. They deserve all the positive recognition that we as a community can give them. The team provided me with an unforgettable experience this fall, something we could all use during this challenging time. Thank you golfers, and congratulations to Coaches Folsom and Freebury. Well done by all!