Aspen boys golf starts season looking to follow Nic Pevny back to state tourney

Aspen High School's Miles Butera practices on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, at Aspen Golf Club.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Attempting to match Nic Pevny stroke for stroke on the golf course is quite the challenge, one that is only making his teammates better, even if they can rarely — if ever — keep up.

“Nic is the backbone of the Aspen High School team, as his brother (Jack Pevny) was before him, with Jack Hughes. But to have Nic on the team is one of the more special things. It’s really phenomenal,” AHS sophomore Miles Butera said. “It makes you want to play your ‘A’ game. When you play with him, it’s a whole different experience. Sports psychiatrists have shown when you play with better players you tend to play better. Playing with him is such an experience. It’s almost like playing with a Tour player.”

High praise, but that’s what comes with being the best. Pevny, a senior, is the reigning Class 3A high school state champion in boys golf. He became the first AHS male golfer to win the state’s individual title when he beat Thayer Plewe of Montezuma-Cortez by three strokes last October in Gunnison.

Behind Pevny is relative inexperience, although there is enough on the table for the Skiers to be excited about. Their season is scheduled to get underway Thursday in Delta, the first of the fall sports to start play ahead of the 2021-22 school year. Official golf practices and tryouts began this past Monday, while the rest of the fall sports officially start practice this coming Monday, Aug. 9.

“It’s a weight off our shoulders, because every time we go out we know we’re going to have that score that we can use,” AHS senior Will Stiller said of having Pevny on the team. “I’m feeling good. I haven’t played that much, but I had two scrappy, solid rounds there (at tryouts), so I was happy about that. As a team we look pretty solid.”

Of the four players who competed for Aspen at state last fall, only Pevny is back. Jake Doyle, Andrew Vallone and Cole Kennedy all graduated, leaving the door open for some fresh faces this season.

Fresh to a degree anyway, as senior Lucas Lee was a state qualifier as a sophomore and Stiller has also qualified in the past, but chose to skip the tournament for academic reasons. He hopes to play at state this year, one of five, it not more, players who are in the mix for the regional team.

“I’m excited. It’s nice to be able to help the younger kids and have that confidence,” Stiller said of being one of the senior leaders. “I feel like there is a little less pressure as a senior for some reason. I’ve done it before. I’ve played more tournaments and the experience is helpful.”

While Pevny — who was playing this week at an American Junior Golf Association tournament in Montrose — leads the bunch, and Stiller and Lee follow with some experience, players like Butera and junior Sky Sosna are firmly in the mix, as are some of the other young players, such as Luke Leonard and Ryan Rigney.

Sosna especially drew a lot of praise from his teammates for his improvement this past summer.

Gallery caption: Photos: Aspen boys golf practice

“We’ve got a pretty good team. Sky has gotten so much better over the past couple of months. He can compete with Nic any round,” Lee said. “And then me and Will can throw in a 70. We can just alternate and I think we can win states probably. I don’t see why not.”

Aspen won’t have its full lineup to start the season, as Pevny and Sosna are both competing in non-CHSAA tournaments this week and weekend. This doesn’t mean there is any less pressure on the Skiers who are playing, as the program looks to remain one of the state’s best this fall, only three years removed from its first state championship as a team, a group that included Pevny’s older brother.

“We’ve been doing a great job with development. The Aspen Junior Golf program has been working hard to help develop some of our younger players and we are starting to see the results of that,” longtime AHS golf coach Mary Woulfe said. “With as busy as the course has been because of COVID, they continue to support us and I can’t say enough good things about what the city has done to keep us playing, keep us open and help the kids with range balls and facility use as busy as we are. It’s nice to see the support of the community.”

The Skiers are currently scheduled to host their lone home tournament on Monday, Aug. 16, at Aspen Golf Club. Basalt will host a tournament the next day at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale. The regional tournament is Sept. 20 in Cortez, while the 3A state tournament is scheduled for Oct. 4 and 5 at Spring Valley Golf Club in Elizabeth.