Davis Bryant entered the 2014 season confident he could place in the top 20 at the Class 5A boys state golf tournament as a freshman.
Judging by his third-place individual finish in the loaded Centennial League and his collected play in the challenging 5A Central Regional at Green Valley Ranch Club, that goal seems more than reachable for Eaglecrest’s steady frosh.
Bryant — the school’s first individual state qualifier since Keith Brady in 2006 — is eager to see what he can do when the two-day state tournament opens Sept. 29 at Colorado Springs Country Club.
“I created my goal before high school golf started; I felt like if I kept playing like I was in the summer during the season, I could do it,” Bryant said. “I think finishing in the top 15 or 20 would be very respectable for a ninth grader and for the kids that will be in state.”
Bryant and Smoky Hill junior Paul Cleveland — who is determined to improve on his 68th-place finish from last season — were the only individual players from Aurora schools to qualify for state.
The rest of the city’s 10 state qualifiers are part of four-man teams in seniors Jack Lazzeri and Kevin Shafer and juniors Bennett Rogers and Andrew McCormick for Regis Jesuit and seniors Zach Goldsmith and Mitchell Nevin, junior Ji Woo Jang and sohpomore Bradley Scalia for Cherokee Trail.
The Raiders’ quest to win a fifth straight 5A state championship depends largely on how Shafer, Rogers and McCormick perform in their first trips to state.
At the 5A Central Regional, the trio combined to post a score good enough to win the team title, even on an off day for No. 1 Jack Lazzeri, the lone holdover from Regis Jesuit’s state-winning team in 2013 and the team’s No. 1 player.
The result didn’t surprise Regis Jesuit players or coach Craig Rogers, but others who thought the team was vulnerable with Division I golfers Spencer Painton, Jake Kelley and Chris Korte departed found out otherwise.
“With our guys who graduated, it made us a little weak, but we’re still very strong,” Shafer said. “You look back at the time we won in Grand Junction (in 2011), a few of those guys had never played at state before. We could do it again.”
Lazzeri struggled to open state last year, but rebounded with a strong finish that has him encouraged for his second trip.
“I think my experience is going to help take down the nerves,” he said. “Last year, I was just so nervous for the first five holes. I’m going to try to play better than last year. There’s a lot of good players in the field, so I’m really excited for it.”
Scalia and Nevin have the lone state experience of the foursome of Centennial League champion Cherokee Trail, as Scalia qualified last year — and tied for 17th — and Nevin made it individually as a sophomore in 2012.
“So many good golfers are going to state and good teams,” coach Troy Flores said. “With how fickle golf can be, if my kids go out and shoot mid-70s and are successful, I’ll be happy as a clam.”
Looking to build off his strong play at last season’s state tournament — which might have been even better if not for playing the last five holes on the second at Murphy Creek G.C. in vicious winds — Scalia has high hopes for himself and the team.
Of the three Aurora players who competed at state last season, a group that also includes Lazzeri and Cleveland, Scalia had the best finish and would like to even improve on that.
“Last year I went in hoping I did good because I didn’t expect to make state as a freshman and then I was tied for fifth on the first day,” Scalia said. “This year I want to be in the top 10 considering how close I came last year.”
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel. IG: Auroraprepsentinel
2014 CLASS 5A BOYS GOLF FIRST ROUND TEE TIMES
AURORA | Tee times and pairings for the first round of the Class 5A boys state golf tournament Sept. 29 at Colorado Springs Country Club. Aurora players bold and uppercased:
TEE NO. 1
8:30 a.m.: EJ Clark (Cherry Creek), Nick Medina (Ralston Valley)
8:39 a.m.: Cole Edwards (Cherry Creek), Zach Gomez (Ralston Valley)
8:48 a.m.: Roy Carlsen (Ralston Valley), Ben Eisenbies (Arvada West), Subin Lee (Cherry Creek)
8:57 a.m.: JACK LAZZERI (REGIS JESUIT), Andrew Landford (Broomfield), Evan Tooley (Columbine)
9:06 a.m.: ANDREW MCCORMICK (REGIS JESUIT), Alex Gorman (Broomfield), Isiodoro Zambrano (Columbine)
9:15 a.m.: BENNETT ROGERS (REGIS JESUIT), Brett Startz (Douglas County), Michael Tait (Columbine)
9:24 a.m.: KEVIN SHAFER (REGIS JESUIT), Nick Smith (Douglas County), Marcus Tait (Columbine)
9:33 a.m.: MITCHELL NEVIN (CHEROKEE TRAIL), Jordan Barrett (Doherty), Griffin Barela (Lakewood)
9:42 a.m.: ZACH GOLDSMITH (CHEROKEE TRAIL), JJ Amato (Lakewood), Anthony Augelli (Doherty)
9:51 a.m.: JI WOO JANG (CHEROKEE TRAIL), Jack Castiglia (Lakewood), Chance Vasquez (Doherty)
10 a.m.: BRADLEY SCALIA (CHEROKEE TRAIL), Kevin Liao (Lakewood), Chadd Vasquez (Doherty)
10:09 a.m.: Ryan Pearson (Highlands Ranch), Luke Travins (Coronado), Luke Wilson (Boulder)
10:18 a.m.: Austin Burgess (Coronado), Jackson Crist (Highlands Ranch), Alec Poorman (Boulder)
10:27 a.m.: Bond Bixler (Boulder), Wes Moran (Coronado), Kyle Pearson (Highlands Ranch)
10:36 a.m.: Isaac Petersillie (Coronado), Grant Rogers (Boulder), Tyler Zhang (Highlands Ranch)
TEE NO. 10
8:30 a.m.: Evan Buchalski (Loveland), Chris Raap (Mountain Vista), Ryan Zetwick (Rock Canyon)
8:39 a.m.: Austin Hardman (Mountain Vista), Josh Pusar (Rock Canyon), Alec Steine (Loveland)
8:48 a.m.: Nick Caldwell (Rock Canyon), Nolan Cox (Mountain Vista), Mitch Leach (Loveland)
8:57 a.m.: Austin Lieneman (Arapahoe), Jack Matchinsky (ThunderRidge), Jackson Vacek (Fairview)
9:06 a.m.: Trevor Crockett (ThunderRidge), David Packer (Arapahoe), Daniel Pearson (Fairview)
9:15 a.m.: Josh Caridi (Fossil Ridge), Eric Lovell (Greeley West), Trevor McCord (ThunderRidge)
9:24 a.m.: Noah Brownell (Fossil Ridge), Donny Kinnaman (Grand Junction), AJ Ott (Fort Collins)
9:33 a.m.: Troy Dangler (Fruita Monument), Trevor Olkowski (Grand Junction), Hunter Paugh (Fort Collins)
9:42 a.m.: Li Chen (Legacy), Josh Hill (Monarch), Reese Leiker (Heritage)
9:51 a.m.: Trevor Glen (Legacy), Nick Leibold (Heritage), Cooper Taylor (Monarch)
10 a.m.: Paul Fox (Dakota Ridge), Andrew Martinez (Rampart), Grant Olinger (Pomona)
10:09 a.m.: DAVID BRYANT (EAGLECREST), Ryan Kropp (Brighton), Kailer Rundiks-Clements (Denver East)
10:18 a.m.: Breland Holifield (Pine Creek), Arik Roberts (Palmer), Andy Yang (Prairie View)
10:27 a.m.: PAUL CLEVELAND (SMOKY HILL), Philip Nelson (Legend), Josh Turner (Liberty)