Boys Golf: Raiders’ confidence high in quest for 5A four-peat

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Like Class 5A state championships, confidence abounds for the Regis Jesuit boys golf team.

Coach Craig Rogers’ Raiders have become a finely-tuned winning machine over the past five years — a span that includes three straight state titles — and created a season-to-season confidence that few prep programs in any sport can match.

Regis Jesuit's Spencer Painton
Senior Spencer Painton is one of three players returning from a Regis Jesuit boys golf team that won its third consecutive Class 5A state championship last season. The Raiders are loaded for another run. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

In every tournament, the Raiders simply trust that they will be there in the end.

“Just walk around with confidence, that’s it,” senior Spencer Painton said on Aug. 6, just two days before Regis Jesuit opened their quest for a four-peat.

Rogers stays humble and understands the fickle nature of golf, but it’s hard to contain the confidence that comes from  a roster built on three talented returning seniors supplemented by a stable of young players hungry to make the varsity team.

That recipe has helped the golf program develop a tradition to match any other sport at Regis Jesuit since the Raiders claimed the first of their three consecutive state championships in 2010.

Three years ago, Gus Lundquist and Cole Cunningham broke out to lead Regis Jesuit to victory. Daniel Johnson and Ryan Schmitz emerged in 2011 to secure the second title and Jake Kelley, Chris Korte and Painton rose to the occasion last season.

Kelley, Korte and Painton, all of whom may have the chance to play Division I golf by the time the season is over, return for the title defense.

The inevitable question is, can this team be better than those before it?

“I believe we have a chance to be better than the other years, but it will be tough,” Painton said. “We’ve had some fantastic players walk through this program, so we’ll see. If we all play our best, we can go toe-to-toe with any other Regis team we’ve had out there. Time will tell.”

Summer results bode well for another outstanding season for Regis Jesuit.

All three returning seniors played in a variety of tournaments against outstanding competition. Painton made match play at the 66th U.S. Junior Amateur in Truckee, Calif., while Kelley and Korte both played in the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships in Florida.

Junior Jack Lazzeri hopes to be the latest player to help Regis Jesuit to a state championship, but is well aware of how difficult that will be. He’s admittedly nervous, but also up for the challenge.

“Three state championships in a row is hard to live up to, but I’m excited,” said Lazzeri, who put himself in good shape with a 70 in the opening round of tryouts.

What Lazzeri and all Regis Jesuit players know is that they have to work hard throughout the season to maintain their spot in the lineup.

The returning Raiders know that even a lapse of a few holes is the difference between watching state and playing in it.

“You have to hang in there,” Lazzeri said.

Grandview closed strong in 2012, winning its first Centennial League tournament since 2006 and finishing third in the final league standings for the first time.

The only disappointing part for coach Randy Smith’s Wolves came at regionals, when only one player — Devyn Solano — managed to make the state tournament.

This season’s new regional format (see story, page 17) should be a boon for Grandview, which won’t have to fight it out with all the Centennial League teams for state berths this season.

Featuring a trio of seniors in Solano Kyle Carr and Chad Tam — plus the yet-to-be-known contributions of promising freshman Danny Taggart — Smith expects much of the same from this year’s team.

“We’re pretty excited; there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to repeat what we did last year,” Smith said. “We had such a great second half to last season and we’re hoping to piggyback on that momentum.”

A big boost for the Wolves is the return of the continually-improving Solano, who has steadily climbed the league ranks in the past two seasons and has several college programs paying attention to him.

Solano finished fourth in the Centennial League in stroke play average last season to earn the only spot on the all-league team for an Aurora golfer, then qualified for state for the first time, finishing 40th.

Cherokee Trail's Mitch Nevin
Junior Mitchell Nevin is one of Cherokee Trail’s two returning Class 5A state qualifiers. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Carr came up short in a two-day, three-man playoff for the final state spot out of the loaded Metro East Regional, but Smith sees only benefits from that experience. Carr and Tam showed noticeable improvements from last season.

Cherokee Trail also should challenge to be in the upper half of the Centennial League standings with state qualifiers Ben Knapp and Mitchell Nevin back, plus some rising young talent.

Junior Zach Goldsmith also looks ready to become a strong contributor for coach Troy Flores’ Cougars, who finished a stroke behind Smoky Hill in the chase for fifth place in the Centennial League last year. The Buffaloes will have a hard time keeping that spot because of mass graduations.

Former assistant Jim Riesenman took over the head job at Smoky Hill and is counting on sophomore Paul Cleveland to build on his strong debut season while some seniors and young players adjust to varsity play.

Overland's Joe Slocum
Senior Joe Slocum leads Overland’s small team in 2013. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Overland coach Bert Dalton had just three players come out for tryouts, but one is senior No. 1 Joe Slocum, a potential state qualifier. Eaglecrest has decent numbers, but one clear cut leader in senior Isaiah Dixon.

In the EMAC ranks, veteran Rangeview coach Merlin Johnson has a significant number of players to choose from as he seeks to assemble a team capable of competing for a top three league finish.

Johnson has plenty of experienced golfers, but hasn’t set a lineup as of yet, though rising sophomore Raymond Simanjuntak and seniors Tyler Hayes and Mitchell Votry most likely have a place in whatever group he puts out.

Gateway coach Brian Dossey has three returning players, with experienced senior Cody Coldiron expected to lead the way, while Aurora Central is bolstered by senior Marquinn McGary, who has shown a dedication to the game that veteran coach Larry Taylor hasn’t seen in a long time.

Hinkley has a new coach in Andy Robinson, who has the task of rebuilding a program that was down to just one player last season. Vista PEAK competes in the 4A ranks for the second season.

2013 AURORA BOYS GOLF KEY DATES, INFORMATION

Aurora Central's Marquinn McGary
Aurora Central senior Marquinn McGary poses before tee time, Aug. 5 at Fitzsimons Golf Course. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Key dates: Aug. 5 — Practice begins; Aug. 8 — First tournaments allowed; Sept. 16-20 — Regional tournaments (4 sites: Southern – Sept. 16, Colorado Springs Country Club; Central – Sept. 16, Murphy Creek G.C.; Western – TBD, Raccoon Creek G.C.; Northern – TBD); Sept. 30-Oct. 1 — State tournaments (5A, CommonGround G.C.; 4A, Hiwan Country Club)

Regionals: Southern (Colorado Springs host league, Sept. 16 at Colorado Springs Country Club) – Centennial Nos. 1, 5, 9; EMAC Nos. 1, 5, 9; Denver Nos. 2, 6, 10; Southwest Nos. 2, 6, 10; Colorado Springs Metro Nos. 2, 11; Front Range Nos. 3, 7, 11; Jeffco Nos. 4, 8, 12; Central (Continental host league, Sept. 16 at Murphy Creek G.C.) — Continental Nos. 1, 5, 9; Jeffco Nos. 1, 5, 9; Centennial Nos. 2, 6, 10; EMAC Nos. 2, 6, 10; Denver Nos. 3, 7, 11; Southwest Nos. 3, 7, 11; Colorado Springs Nos. 4, 8, 12; Front Range Nos. 4, 8, 12; Northern (Front Range host league, TBD) —  Colorado Springs Nos. 1, 5, 9; Front Range Nos. 1, 5, 9; Continental Nos. 2, 6, 10; Jeffco Nos. 2, 6, 10; Centennial Nos. 3, 7, 11; EMAC Nos. 3, 7, 11; Denver Nos. 4, 8, 12; Southwest Nos. 4, 8, 12; Western (Jeffco host league, TBD at Raccoon Creek G.C.): Denver Nos. 1, 5, 9; Southwest Nos. 1, 5, 9; Colorado Springs Nos. 2, 6, 10; Front Range Nos. 2, 6, 10; Continental Nos. 3, 7, 11; Jeffco Nos. 3, 7, 11; Centennial Nos. 4, 8, 12; EMAC Nos. 4, 8, 12

Aurora coaches: Aurora Central — Larry Taylor; Cherokee Trail — Troy Flores; Eaglecrest — Stan Adams; Gateway — Brian Dossey; Grandview — Randy Smith; Hinkley — Andy Robinson; Overland — Bert Dalton; Rangeview — Merlin Johnson; Regis Jesuit — Craig Rogers; Smoky Hill — Jim Riesenman; Vista PEAK — Michael Dougherty

Aurora golfers to watch: Kyle Carr, Grandview, sr.; Paul Cleveland, Smoky Hill, soph.; Cody Coldiron, Gateway, sr.; Kyle Colen, Smoky Hill, fr.; Isaiah Dixon, Eaglecrest, sr.; Blake Foerster, Smoky Hill, sr.; Zach Goldsmith, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Tyler Hayes, Rangeview, sr.; Jake Kelley, Regis Jesuit, sr.*; Ben Knapp, Cherokee Trail, sr.*; Chris Korte, Regis Jesuit, sr.*; Jack Lazerri, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Marquinn McGary, Aurora Central, sr.; Joseph Miller, Gateway, soph.; Mitchell Nevin, Cherokee Trail, jr.*; Spencer Painton, Regis Jesuit, sr.*; Raymond Simanjuntak, Rangeview, soph.; Joe Slocum, Overland, sr.; Devyn Solano, Grandview, sr.*; Chad Tam, Grandview, sr.; Mitchell Votry, Rangeview, sr.

* — Returning 5A state qualifier