Aspen golfers back at state with Pevny trying to defend his championship
Class 3A tournament is Monday and Tuesday in Elizabeth
Unlike last fall, which ended with Aspen High School’s Nic Pevny winning the program’s first individual state championship in boys golf, the senior hasn’t dominated from start to finish this season. He finished in at least a tie for first after 18 holes in every tournament as a junior, but hasn’t racked up the wins this fall, although he’s usually in contention.
That said, when the stage is the biggest, Pevny always seems to show up. He defended his regional championship on Sept. 21 in Cortez and will be among the favorites, if not the favorite, when the Class 3A state golf tournament is held Monday and Tuesday at Spring Valley Golf Club in Elizabeth.
“Nic is right there where he needs to be right now and doing what he needs to do and presenting in the way he needs to,” longtime AHS golf coach Mary Woulfe said. “He’s going to be one tough competitor at the state tournament.”
Pevny shot rounds of 69 and 71 for a two-day score of 140 at Dos Rios Golf Club in Gunnison a year ago to take his place atop AHS golf history, joining his brother, Jack Pevny, who as a junior was part of Aspen’s 2018 team title at Boulder Country Club, which was a first for the program.
The Skiers will have a chance to add to their championship haul at Spring Valley behind a relatively experienced foursome, led by Nic Pevny.
“I’m feeling pretty good. We played this course earlier this year and I liked it,” Pevny said. “We got a lot of experience, so I feel pretty good about it. I think we can contend if we play well.”
Joining Pevny at state this week are seniors Will Stiller and Lucas Lee, and junior Sky Sosna. That group combined to win the regional title last month in Cortez by 13 strokes over Montezuma-Cortez, making it 12 regional titles in 13 seasons for the Skiers.
While Pevny’s individual state title was impressive last fall, the team will look to improve upon its seventh-place team finish, where it shot 479 over the two days. Colorado Academy won the state championship last fall with 456.
“The boys have been working hard, doing exactly what each of them needs to do,” Woulfe said. “I’ve got four very different personalities in these kids and they get along very well and work to support each other very well. They are a unique group of kids coming together as a team and really supporting each other under the team concept.”
Stiller has arguably been the team’s most consistent golfer this fall, even if his regional round of 81 probably won’t make his highlight reel. He’s competing at state for the first time this week, although he did qualify a few years ago but opted out for academic reasons.
Woulfe called Stiller “Mr. Steady Eddie” and applauded him for being a strong team captain and leader.
“It’s been a fun year and I’m excited to see how we can do at states,” Stiller said. “I’ve been managing what I’ve been doing well. If I’ve been driving well, I’ve been playing to that. If I’ve been putting well, I’ve been playing to that, which has been good. That’s led to me not having too many outlier rounds. Just got to keep that same mentality into this week.”
Lee is hoping to continue his redemption tour. He competed at state as a sophomore, shooting 99 both days to finish in 77th place. He had hoped to return to state as a junior but was up-and-down last season and didn’t make the regional team.
But at regionals in Cortez last month, he tied for seventh with a 79 and returns to the state tournament with a lot more confidence than he may have had two years ago.
“I’m excited to be back and try to do better than I did last time, for sure,” Lee said. “Shooting 79 was a pretty big confidence booster. I’m feeling pretty confident. I’m just excited to go out there and get it started and see what the team can do and hopefully contend.”
As the lone non-senior, Sosna is Aspen’s only player at Spring Valley who can build toward another run next season. He’s a first-time state qualifier and is coming off a solid showing at regionals, shooting 77 to finish in sixth place.
“He’s not got a huge amount of experience under his belt, yet, but he’s been gaining it in leaps and bounds by working really hard and playing a lot of tournament golf,” Woulfe said of Sosna. “While he doesn’t have the national stage experience that Nic has been on, he certainly has raised and elevated his game to be capable of making that next leap and that next jump in his game and he’s been showing it with his ability to play.”
All four golfers were able to play the Spring Valley course earlier this season in a tournament. Located on the prairie just southeast of Denver, it has a lot of characteristics that suit the AHS players and Sunday’s practice round allowed them to get even more familiar with the setup.
Even though most eyes will be on Pevny trying to defend his title, he’s going to have a lot of competition. Also back this week are Montezuma-Cortez’s Thayer Plewe, who was the state runner-up behind Pevny last year, and Vail Christian’s Connor Downey, who was third in 2020. As a whole, the Western Slope has a lot of depth representing at the Front Range finale.
Pevny will hit the course Monday at 8:39 a.m. and will play alongside Sterling’s Tayleb Schaefer and Kent Denver’s Ben Ramsden-Wood. Stiller plays in the 8:48 a.m. grouping alongside Kent Denver’s Brendan Archer and Sterling’s Jace Wright. Sosna has the 8:57 a.m. tee box and Lee is another group back at 9:06 a.m.
“The golf is the same. Everything is the same,” Woulfe said of playing at state. “It’s just you have all these parents and grandparents and coaches and recruiters and college coaches and AD’s and tons of spectators around. So that feels different, but it’s really just golf. And I think our team is experienced enough to be ready for that.”
Basalt has three players qualified in senior Braden Exelbert and sophomores Garrett Exelbert and Alec Claassen, all of whom are Glenwood Springs High School students. The trio will tee off in three consecutive groups from hole No. 10, starting with Garrett Exelbert at 9:15 a.m.
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