AURORA | If he thought about it too much, playing against the best golfers in Colorado in his first state tournament could have overwhelmed Cherokee Trail’s Bradley Scalia.
Instead, the Cougars’ freshman channeled his concentration into every shot he took during Monday’s opening round of the Class 5A state tournament at Murphy Creek Golf Course and ended up one of the surprises of the first round.
Scalia shot an even-par 72 in his first state round, putting him in a tie for fifth-place individually in the 84-player field going into Tuesday’s final round, which tees off at 8:30 a.m. He was very pleased with how he handled himself.
“Here this little freshman, whose only shot under par once, and yet I’m coming in playing with kids with plus-2 handicaps, so that’s pretty daunting if you think about it,” Scalia said shortly after finishing his round with playing partners Ryan Peterson of Highlands Ranch and Lakewood’s Kevin Liao.
“You see them out there hitting 310 (yards), while you can only hit it 280, so it’s tough,” he added. “I just had to focus on my game and take it shot by shot. …I’m really happy to shoot par on this course.”
Scalia was so focused on each shot that he didn’t know the scoring breakdown of his round. It went this way — eight pars, five birdies and five bogeys.
He never got more than 2-over — where he sat through 12 holes — but birdied three of his next four holes, including two straight on No. 7 and No. 8 to get to 1-under before closing with a bogey on No. 9.
The birdie on the eighth hole, generally not one of his favorites, was very satisfying.
For the second round, Scalia is paired with Regis Jesuit’s Jake Kelley — who shot a 1-under 71 in the opening round — and Grand Junction’s Donny Kinnaman, the only other even golfer in the first round. The trio is set to tee off at 10:18 a.m. on No. 1.
Barring something drastic in the second round, Scalia is in position to finisher much higher than expected.
“Honestly, my goal was to be in the top 20, but I think I’ve surpassed that,” he said.
Scalia was the top non-Regis Jesuit finisher from Aurora on the opening day, coming in three strokes ahead of Grandview’s Devyn Solano, who shot a 3-over 75 to open his second straight state tournament appearance.
Solano’s teammate, Kyle Carr, carded an 80, while Overland senior Joe Slocum turned in an 81. Smoky Hill’s young duo of sophomore Paul Cleveland and freshman Kyle Colen — both first-time state qualifiers — shot 88 and 101, respectively.
2013 CLASS 5A BOYS STATE GOLF TOURNAMENT
First round results, Sept. 30 at Murphy Creek G.C.
Team scores: 1. REGIS JESUIT 212, 2. Ralston Valley 221, T3. Cherry Creek 222, T3. Legacy 222, 5. Fairview 225, 6. Douglas County 228, 7. Columbine 229, T8. Grand Junction 230, T8. Heritage 230, 10. Boulder 232, 11. Fort Collins 236, 12. Arapahoe 238, 13. Monarch 243, 14. Fossil Ridge 247, 15. Loveland 251
Top 10 individuals (par 72): 1. SPENCER PAINTON (REGIS JESUIT) 66, 2. Li Chen (Legacy) 67, 3. Keegan Sheard (Ralston Valley) 70, 4. JAKE KELLEY (REGIS JESUIT) 71, T5. BRADLEY SCALIA (CHEROKEE TRAIL) 72, T5. Donny Kinnaman (Grand Junction) 72, T7. AJ Ott (Fort Collins) 73, T7. Grant Olinger (Ponderosa) 73, T7. Jackson Vacek (Fairvie) 73, T7. Kobe Padilla (Cherry Creek) 73, T7. Kyler Dunkle (Douglas County) 73, T7. Will Matthews (Cherry Creek) 73
Aurora results: 1. Spencer Painton (Regis Jesuit) 66, 4. Jake Kelley (Regis Jesuit) 71, T5. Bradley Scalia (Cherokee Trail) 72, T17. Devyn Solano (Grandview) 75, T17. Chris Korte (Regis Jesuit) 75, T36. Jack Lazzeri (Regis Jesuit) 78, T53. Kyle Carr (Grandview) 80, T61. Joe Slocum (Overland) 81, T79. Paul Cleveland (Smoky Hill) 88, 84. Kyle Colen (Smoky Hill) 101