DENVER | A season of firsts continues for the Cherokee Trail boys golf team.
Coach Troy Flores’ Cougars won the first Centennial League tournament in program history during the regular season and added the school’s first league team championship at the end with a fantastic finish.
On Monday at Wellshire Golf Course, Cherokee Trail qualified for the Class 5A state tournament as a team for the first time. The Cougars’ top three scorers — sophomore Bradley Scalia, junior Ji Woo Jang and senior Zach Goldsmith — combined for a team score of 227, which put them in the second automatic team qualifying spot for a trip to the Sept. 29-30 5A state tournament at the Colorado Springs Country Club.
Scalia shot a team-best 74 to earn a trip to a second consecutive state tournament and he’ll have company this time in Jang (76), Goldsmith (77) and senior Mitchell Nevin (81). The Cherokee Trail foursome — the same group that finished a disappointing eighth in regionals last season — will be joined by Smoky Hill junior Paul Cleveland, who shot a 79 to earn a second straight trip to the state tournament.
Cherokee Trail finished 10 strokes off the mark set by Boulder and its leader, Grant Rogers, who shot a blistering 6-under-par 65 to take medalist honors by six strokes. Grand Junction finished just a stroke behind Cherokee Trail in third place with a total of 228.
“What’s been great about this season is these guys have ham-and-egged it; a different player has carried the group,” Flores said. “What I’m pleased about is that the whole team is going and they all four deserve to. I’ve been trying to reiterate the importance of playing for a team because they are going to need their team. High school golf is not as much of an individual thing as you might think. Mitch didn’t have his best day, but his teammates brought him in and he knows that.”
Indeed Nevin appreciated his teammates’ efforts, although he played a strong round until the last two holes, when he bogeyed No. 17 and triple-bogeyed No. 18 — by far his worst hole of the day — to inflate his score by four strokes.
“I played really good through the first 16 holes and blew up on the last two, but otherwise I was happy with how I played,” said Nevin, who sank a solid birdie putt on Hole No. 8 and also made eight pars.
“It’s great to go to state with this team. I know I can count on them at all times,” he added.
Scalia — who tied for 17th at state as a freshman — came away mostly pleased with his round considering some of the trouble he avoided. He was even through the first seven holes finished with three birdies on the day and nothing higher than a bogey.
“I was not striking it very solid out of the fairways, so I was very happy with how I was able to save a lot of strokes, especially with my short game,” he said. “I got a couple of lucky bounces, too. For how small the greens are here, you really have to hit it. Mainly, chipping saved me.”
Scalia — who hopes to shoot for the top 10 in his second state tournament — even thought he might be in contention for the top spot until he saw the eye-popping 65 posted by Rogers. He ended up seventh.
Jang, the Centennial League medalist for the season, birdied his first hole and was on pace to finish with a 74 before a double bogey on Hole No. 18 that saw him fly the green, then hit a tree before he was able to chip onto the green and two-putt.
“I just played bad,” Jang said quietly afterwards. “The course was easy, but the way I hit the ball wasn’t like I normally shoot.”
Goldsmith finished in a tie for 11th individually with his 77. He was just 3-over through 12 holes before losing three more strokes over the final six, but still played an important role in Cherokee Trail’s satisfying team finish.
“I worked all year and took some lessons, so I’m hoping I get in,” he said. “It’s been a fun year with this team. I didn’t expect us to make state as a team at the beginning of the year.”
Smoky Hill’s Cleveland had a short putt lip out on Hole No. 18 that he feared might cost him, but his 79 left him one shot clear of a playoff that involved his teammate, Kyle Colen.
“When I missed that putt, I knew that maybe I was going to regret it,” Cleveland said. “I just made some bogeys that could have been easy pars and a couple of strokes definitely could have been saved. I say that in hindsight. I played OK, but hopefully I play better at state.”
Cleveland tied for 68th at last season’s state tournament.
Colen, a 2013 state qualifier, shot 80 to wind up in a three-man playoff with Ralston Valley’s Nick Medina and Rocky Mountain’s Cameron Nagel. Colen finished third and will serve as the regional’s second alternate.
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
5A SOUTHERN REGIONAL BOYS GOLF
Sept. 15 at Wellshire G.C., Denver
Team scores (top two teams qualify for state, par 213): 1. Boulder 217; 2. CHEROKEE TRAIL (Bradley Scalia, Ji Woo Jang, Zach Goldsmith, Mitchell Nevin) 227; 3. Grand Junction 228; T4. Ralston Valley 231; T4. Rock Canyon 231; 6. Fossil Ridge 233; 7. Pine Creek 245; 8. Pomona 246; 9. SMOKY HILL (Paul Cleveland, Kyle Colen, Parker Friedentag, Cole Johnson) 247; 10. Rocky Mountain 250; 11. Castle View 257; 12. Fountain-Fort Carson 285; 13. Northglenn 286; 14. Adams City 362
State-qualifying individuals (par 71): 1. Grant Rogers (Boulder) 31-34 — 65; 2. Donny Kinnaman (Grand Junction) 37-34 — 71; 3. Grant Olinger (Pomona) 35-37 — 72; T4. Josh Caridi (Fossil Ridge) 35-38 — 73; T4. Roy Carlsen (Ralston Valley) 34-39 — 73; T4. Ryan Zetwick (Rock Canyon) 34-39 — 73; 7. BRADLEY SCALIA (CHEROKEE TRAIL) 37-37 — 74; 8. Bond Bixler (Boulder) 39-36 — 75; T9. JI WOO JANG (CHEROKEE TRAIL) 37-39 — 76; T9. Trevor Olkowski (Grand Junction) 35-41 — 76; T11. ZACH GOLDSMITH (CHEROKEE TRAIL) 38-39 — 77; T11. Alec Poorman (Boulder) 39-38 — 77; T13. Noah Brownell (Fossil Ridge) 36-42 — 78; T13. Zach Gomez (Ralston Valley) 36-42 — 78; T13. Breland Holifield (Pine Creek) 36-42 — 78; T16. PAUL CLEVELAND (SMOKY HILL) 40-39 — 79; T16. Nick Caldwell (Rock Canyon) 38-41 — 79; T16. Josh Pusar (Rock Canyon) 39-40 — 79; T19. Nick Medina (Ralston Valley) 36-44 — 80*; 1st alternate: Cameron Nagel (Rocky Mountain); Second alternate: KYLE COLEN (SMOKY HILL)
Aurora team-by-team results (in order of finish)
Cherokee Trail (227): Bradley Scalia 37-37 — 74, Ji Woo Jang 37-39 — 76, Zach Goldsmith 38-39 — 77, Mitchell Nevin 38-43 — 81; Smoky Hill (247): Paul Cleveland 40-39 — 79, Kyle Colen 37-43 — 80, Parker Friedentag 42-46 — 88, Cole Johnson 41-52 — 93
Other team-by-team result (in order of finish)
Boulder (217): Grant Rogers 65, Bond Bixler 75, Alec Poorman 77, Luke Wilson 84; Grand Junction (228): Donny Kinnaman 71, Trevor Olkowski 76, Ben Volkmann 81, Richard Wise 86; Ralston Valley (231): Roy Carlsen 73, Zach Gomez 78, Nick Medina 80, Luke Stephenson 83; Rock Canyon (231): Ryan Berwick 73, Nick Caldwell 79, Josh Pusar 79, Aaron Key 85; Fossil Ridge (233): Josh Caridi 73, Noah Brownell 78, Cam Lampe 82, Matt Atkins 85; Pine Creek (245): Breland Holifield 78, Brandon Even 83, Christian Madden 84, Michael Phillips 89; Pomona (246): Grant Olinger 72, Josh Himes 85, Darrick Watts 89, Ryan Sutton 97; Rocky Mountain (250): Cameron Nagel 80, Antonio Campana 85, Dan Diderikson 85, Dylan Salas 90; Castle View (257): Casey Chipman 82, Abraham DeFreitas 82, Connor Szmul 93, Mark Olsen 99; Fountain-Fort Carson (285): Collin O’Connor 85, Logan Heckman 100, Daniel Reyes 100, Brenan Boyd 122; Northglenn (286): Louis Vadeen 90, Rafael Delgado 97, Nick Lewis 99, Dalton Hines 100; Adams City (362): Bijan Gangi 119, Aaron Montoya 120, Tim Burns 123; Cale Zbierski 146