Two returning Cherokee Trail boys golfers know more falls on their shoulders if they want to prove the Cougars’ groundbreaking 2014 season marked the arrival of the program.
Coach Troy Flores graduated two key seniors from a team that won the program’s first Centennial League championship last season and joined Aurora powerhouse Regis Jesuit as a team at the Class 5A boys state golf tournament, but the top end of the lineup could carry Cherokee Trail through in 2015.
Senior Ji Woo Jang — the Centennial League medalist a year ago — and junior Bradley Scalia, a two-time state qualifier, again lead the charge for Flores, whose Cougars finished eight strokes ahead of Arapahoe for last season’s league title and went on to finish seventh as a team at state, just five strokes behind runner-up Regis Jesuit.
“We will be very competitive, but in this league, it often comes down to players 3-4-5,” said Flores, who also has high expectations for senior Ryan Loos. “We’re very happy with our 1-2-3, but we don’t know who our No. 4 and No. 5 will be. We’ll see what happens.”
With incredible consistency (rounds of 72, 74 twice and 75), Jang finished atop the league standings — a feat he hopes to repeat in 2015 — but hopes for a big departure from his state performance, when he ended up a disappointing 58th.
Jang spoke of the strides he’s made since last season with a summer that’s included a variety of AGJA events. He broke 70 a couple of times, including a 68 that gave him a shot of confidence.
“I feel like I can do a lot better, last year was a mental thing going into state,” Jang said. “I couldn’t play my best and that affected me, but now I’m better. I feel a lot better than last year…hopefully I can repeat (as Centennial League medalist) and get top five at state.”
Scalia, meanwhile, typically finds league play difficult, but turns it up come state time. He finished eighth in the league standings, but came in tied or better than six of the seven players who finished in front of him at the state meet.
“Me and Ji were the opposite last year, in league meets I didn’t really play well, then in state I kill it, while he killed it in league meets and didn’t do so well at the end,” said Scalia, who tied for 17th at state as a freshman. “He was hitting it so good before state and I think his worst score was a 77, so I was surprised at what happened. I think he’ll do better since that was the first year he went to state. He has the experience and he knows what to do now.”
Eaglecrest sophomore Davis Bryant and Smoky Hill senior Paul Cleveland, who finished 3-4 in the Centennial League individual standings last season, round out Aurora’s contingent of returning state qualifiers.
Cleveland — who finished tied for 48th at state last year, a 20-spot rise from his state debut as a sophomore — is in search of a third straight berth in the state tournament and leads a group that coach Jim Riesenman feels is as deep as the program has been in a quite some time.
Joining Cleveland is junior Kyle Colen, who made state as a freshman, but lost out in a regional playoff in his bid to return last season, while senior Parker Friedentag and junior Cole Johnson round out a solid group determined to improve on last season’s sixth-place league finish.
“For the first time in many years, we have enough depth to field a pretty good team,” Riesenman said. “My goals for the Buffaloes are to finish in the top half of the Centennial League and to qualify as a team for the state tournament.”
Bryant — the Raptors’ first 5A state qualifier since 2007 — had himself an outstanding summer and comes into the season with a goal of finishing in the top 10 at the state tournament. Just prior to state, he will play in the First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.
Noting an additional 20-30 yards off the tee and confidence in his game that he’s never had before, Bryant is eyeing a finish well in front of his 30th-place result last season.
“My goal for this year is top 10,” Bryant to the Sentinel over the summer. “I don’t think the expectations change from last year. I definitely have the game to do it.”
Junior Danny Taggart and senior Mason Jowsey carry the most experience for coach Randy Smith Grandview, which was shut out of state representation last season, while Overland has a new coach in Casey Coy, who takes over for veteran Bert Dalton.
Rangeview coach Merlin Johnson hopes he has a state qualifier in his group, with senior Raymond Simanjuntak the best bet to make that happen.
Simanjuntak is in his fourth year as a varsity player and generally gets better as the season goes along, as he doesn’t play a ton of golf in the offseason due to other commitments.
Promising junior Jared Clanton and sophomore Levi Robinson join senior Jonathan Kim — younger brother of Rangeview’s two-time 5A state qualifier Josh Kim and three-time girls state qualifier Julia Kim — in a group that Johnson hopes can finish as high as third in the final EMAC standings behind perennial leaders Prairie View and Brighton.
The Raiders’ previous best finish in the EMAC is fourth.
Gateway coach Brian Dossey has a small group this season, but has a pair of experienced seniors to lead the way in Luke Hemphill and Joseph Miller. Dossey believes Hemphill — a second-team All-EMAC performer last season — has played enough golf in the offseason to give himself a legitimate shot to qualify for the state tournament.
Vista PEAK experienced success with its first two girls 4A state qualifiers in the spring and coach Michael Dougherty aims for the same result on the boys side.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2015 AURORA BOYS GOLFERS TO WATCH
Drew Anderson, Regis Jesuit, soph.; Davis Bryant, Eaglecrest, soph*.; Jared Clanton, Rangeview, jr.; Paul Cleveland, Smoky Hill, sr.*; Kyle Colen, Smoky Hill, jr.; Luke Hemphill, Gateway, sr.; Ji Woo Jang, Cherokee Trail, sr.*; Mason Jowsey, Grandview, sr.; Ryan Loos, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Andrew McCormick, Regis Jesuit, sr.*; Joseph Miller, Gateway, sr.; Levi Robinson, Rangeview, soph.; Bennett Rogers, Regis Jesuit, sr.*; Bradley Scalia, Cherokee Trail, jr.*; Raymond Simanjuntak, Rangeview, sr.; Danny Taggart, Grandview, jr.; Tyler Zhang, Regis Jesuit, jr.*;
* — Returning 5A state qualifier
For key dates and information for the 2015 Aurora boys golf season, click here.