We are the (Aurora) champions: Regis Jesuit boys golf team

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Regis Jesuit's Cal McCoy, Tyler Zhang, Justin Markel and Drew Anderson on Wednesday Oct. 26, 2016 at Regis Jesuit High School. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel
From left, the Regis Jesuit boys golf team of Cal McCoy, Tyler Zhang, Justin Markel and Drew Anderson brought home the program’s sixth Class 5A state championship in the past seven seasons with a one-stroke victory over Highlands Ranch. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | City teams and athletes won two team championships and three individual titles during the 2016 fall prep sports season. Here’s an in-depth look at the Regis Jesuit boys golf team, the Class 5A state champion:

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

Regis Jesuit's Cal McCoy, Tyler Zhang, Justin Markel and Drew Anderson on Wednesday Oct. 26, 2016 at Regis Jesuit High School. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel
From left, Regis Jesuit’s Cal McCoy, Tyler Zhang, Justin Markel and Drew Anderson didn’t win their Class 5A regional tournament, but captured the state championship by a single stroke. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

REGIS JESUIT: CLASS 5A BOYS GOLF STATE CHAMPION

With unmatched depth and tradition, the Regis Jesuit boys golf team continued to be Class 5A’s elite program as it capped the 2016 season with the program’s sixth state championship in the past seven seasons. For the second straight season, it came all the way down to the final hole of the two-day tournament for coach Craig Rogers‘ team, which finished a stroke in front of Continental League rival Highlands Ranch at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction, a week after it finished third in the 5A Western Regional at Broadlands Golf Course. Rogers sent his team to the practice green to warm up in the event that a playoff hole was needed (as it was in 2011 when the tournament was last played on the Western Slope), but the Falcons’ Kyle Pearson — who singlehandedly erased a comfortable lead for Regis Jesuit with his torrid finish — missed a putt on Hole No. 18 that left the Raiders one stroke clear of Highlands Ranch. Regis Jesuit also won the 2015 5A state title by a single stroke over both Coronado and Lakewood.

Half of Regis Jesuit’s four-man state team played in its second straight state tournament in senior Tyler Zhang and junior Cal McCoy, while the Raiders’ supreme depth showed itself again when senior Justin Markel and junior Drew Anderson joined the mix and contributed greatly to the championship. Zhang played two seasons at Regis Jesuit after transferring from Highlands Ranch and ended up with state titles in both seasons, while improving the mental toughness of his game by playing in so many pressure situations. The Regis University signee gutted through a back injury at the state tournament with rounds of 73 and 77 (that could have been better if not for a double bogey on the par-3 Hole No. 17) to finish in a tie for 16th overall after a fifth-place showing the previous season. McCoy, meanwhile, saw his putting and driving take a step forward in his second varsity season and it paid off for him in the end. McCoy opened the state tournament with a round of 2-over 73, then shot even par 71 in the final round — getting as low as 2-under with four holes left — when his team needed him to perform. Thirty-eighth in the individual standings in 2015, McCoy made a huge rise into a tie for sixth overall.

Justin Markel of Regis Jesuit watches his drive sail down the fairway of the eighth hole during play on the second day of the 5A state golf tournament at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction Tuesday.
Regis Jesuit senior Justin Markel shot 2-under-par at the Class 5A Western Regional, then tied for 14th individually in his one and only trip to the 5A state tournament. (Photo courtesy of Gretel Daugherty/Grand Junction Daily Sentinel)

Markel finally made his way through Regis Jesuit’s difficult tryout process to earn a spot on the varsity team to start the season. Equipped with all the shots and confidence, Markel proved he belonged throughout the Continental League season and on into the postseason, where he was the lone player on his team to shoot under par in regional qualifying. At the state tournament, Markel shot rounds of 74 and 75 to finish in a tie for 14th place in his one and only appearance at state. Anderson learned the value of not getting ahead of himself this season and his slowed down pace allowed him to navigate difficult stretches much better than he used to. While he shot a 3-over 74 in the opening round, Anderson gave the Raiders a needed shot with his second round performance. He spent nearly the entire round under par and finished at 1-under after miraculously making just a bogey after a bad start to Hole No. 16. Anderson tied McCoy and one other play for sixth place individually.