AURORA | Normally stoic, Spencer Painton allowed himself a small fist pump at the end of his round Monday.
Nobody would have argued if the Regis Jesuit senior had a much more demonstrative celebration at the conclusion of the opening round of the Class 5A boys state golf tournament considering what he’d just accomplished.
Painton absolutely scorched the back nine at Murphy Creek Golf Course, making birdie on his last six holes to rocket up the leaderboard into the top spot going into Tuesday’s final round. Painton finished the flourish — which capped a 7-under showing on the back nine — by sinking a short birdie putt on No. 18 with teammates and coaches watching.
“Yeah, I’ve never had six birdies before, so why not?” Painton said of his fist pump. “To do it in front of the guys and the team was pretty nice. I wasn’t expecting to do that (six in a row), I was just hoping to get to a couple under and then everything just kept going. It just started snowballing.”
Painton — who shot a 4-under 68 on the same course two weeks earlier at regionals and produced a round of 64 during the season at Pradera — told Regis Jesuit coach Craig Rogers that he wanted to shoot as low as possible to provide some cushion for the team, which is seeking to win its fourth consecutive 5A state championship.
Mission accomplished, as Painton (66) and senior Jake Kelley — who birdied his final hole to card a 71 — each shot under par to help the Raiders get to 4-under as a team after one round, good enough for a nine-shot lead over Ralston Valley, the 2012 runner-up.
Senior Chris Korte rounded out Regis Jesuit’s scoring with a 3-over 75, while junior Jack Lazzeri came in with a 78.
As impressive as the Raiders’ performance was, Rogers saw plenty of strokes his team left on the course.
“We just had trouble getting the ball in the hole today at times, and I’m sure other teams did, too,” Rogers said. “We had a number of lip-outs or shots that barely missed and went in hazards. …We have to play well tomorrow, but being under par as a team at state is special. It doesn’t happen often. I don’t think we’ve ever done it.
“All of these guys are capable of better days, so we’re going to have some fun.”
Case in point was Kelley, who cruised along to 2-under going into No. 17 — which had him tied with Painton, three shots behind Legacy’s Li Chen at that point — but a double bogey on the par 3 brought him to even.
He rebounded, however, and birdied the par 4 No. 18 to finish 1-under, which put him in fourth.
“Coach (Steve) Cavnar helped me with the yardage on that hole and having everybody watching pumped me up, so that’s how I made that one,” Kelley said of 18.
Next up after Kelley on 18 came Painton, who had to overcome a bit of a slow start — he was 2-over after three holes — to quickly climb the leaderboard. He finished plus-1 through nine holes, but got to even with a birdie to open the back nine.
Following two more pars, Painton made birdie on the par 5 Hole No. 13 and didn’t look back from there. He birdied two par 4s, another par 5 and a par 3 to bring himself to 18, where word had spread of his run.
Painton put himself in good position with a second shot that landed five yards to the left of the hole and calmly sank his putt to give himself a one-strike lead on Chen — who he tied with for second place last season — when the two play in the final threesome in Tuesday’s final round.
“I’m very pleased with how I finished out, especially with how the day began,” Painton said. “I don’t remember much about the end, I just kept going. I just kept going, it just didn’t matter.”
Kelley has seen Painton play that well before and continues to be inspired.
“It pumps me up just to try to keep up with him,” Kelley said. “He leads the team at these big tournaments, so everybody just tries to follow him.”
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
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel