Just like the present, the future looks quite bright for Aurora on the golf course.
When the two-day Class 5A boys state golf tournament begins Oct. 2 at the Collingdale Golf Course in Fort Collins, it will include 11 qualifiers from city programs and not a single one of them is a senior.
Cherokee Trail’s lineup of junior Christopher O’Donnell, sophomores Brayden Forte and Dalton Sisneros and freshman Anthony Chen won a regional championship, as did the all-junior Regis Jesuit group of Anthony Lore, Sam Walker, Roland Thornton and Ben Sander, while a junior (Grandview’s Michael Rosman) and two sophomores (Eaglecrest’s Gregory White and Smoky Hill’s Hudson Roth) made it individually.
And none of them is simply happy to be at state, they have plans to do something.
Full 2023 Class 5A boys golf state tournament 1st round pairings, here
Regis Jesuit is tied with Kent Denver for the most state championships all-time with nine, but hasn’t taken home the state’s top team prize since 2017.
Veteran coach Craig Rogers has a group that could end that drought, though only one of them — Thornton — has previous state experience.
“I told them at the beginning of the year that we’re one of a handful of teams that can win it this year and not too many teams can say that,” Rogers said. “To really have a chance, all we needed to worry about was getting better each day. We had a few stumbles in the earlier tournaments, but at the end of the round, it was always ‘what did you learn today, what can you take away?’
“More than any team here, maybe ever, I’ve seen that slight progress and we’re playing better now than we were in August. That can be hard to do.”
Lore typifies that as much as anybody, as he has steadily worked his way to peaking at the right time.
He earned a share of medalist honors at the last Continental League tournament and then won the Western Region title Sept. 21 at Flatirons G.C. with a 2-under-par 68, which was a stroke better than Walker. That helped the Raiders finish atop the regional with an eight-stroke margin.
Thornton — who was 49th as a freshman and 44th last season at state — gritted his way to a 73 and Sander shot 74 in a strong team performance.
An even better team performance came from Cherokee Trail Sept. 20 at the Central Region tournament at the University of Denver Golf Club.
Coach Jason Leclaire’s young team got an eagle on the final hole from Sisneros to finish 5-under-par as a team and win by three strokes over Continental League champion Rock Canyon.
The Cougars finished as the runner-up to Cherry Creek in Centennial League play, but believe they can contend with the Bruins and other top teams.
“We beat Rock Canyon and Creek in some league events, so I think it is anyone’s at state,” said Forte, who won medalist honors with a 3-under 69.
“I think it just depends on how we position ourselves off the tee and move on from there.”
O’Donnell (who shot a 1-under-par 71 at regionals) is a two-time state qualifier who was 62nd last year and 52nd in 2021, while Forte will make his second state appearance and will look to improved on a 38th-place finish as a freshman.
White is the third player from a local program to win a regional medal, as he carded a 4-under-par 66 to take the Southern Region crown Sept. 21 at Indian Tree G.C. White finished in a tie for eighth at last season’s state tournament, when he helped Eaglecrest to a fifth-place team finish. He will play as an individual this season.
Rosman shot 73 to tie for sixth in the Western Region tournament and earn a second straight trip to state. He finished tied for 62nd last season.
Roth is the first Smoky Hill boys golfer to qualify for state since Chris Kennedy (a four-time qualifier) in 2018. Roth shot 82 to earn an individual spot out of the Central Region.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter/X: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports