Jack Pevny, Aspen golf team heads to state looking to defend championship
Rare is it that the reigning state champions enter as the underdog, but that’s exactly how the Aspen High School boys golf team sees it. Only senior Jack Pevny returned from that historic team a year ago, so the Skiers mostly believe it’s a clean slate with the Class 3A state tournament set to get underway Monday in Colorado Springs.
“It’s the first year in a while where we’ve come in as the underdog,” Pevny said. “A lot of people don’t think we are in it, which I just see as a huge opportunity to prove them wrong. I see it as a big opportunity for the younger guys, my brother included, as it’s their first time going to state and to kind of get a feel for that.”
Aspen will have four players competing Monday and Tuesday at Eisenhower Golf Course, which is located on the U.S. Air Force Academy’s campus. Pevny is joined by sophomore Nic Pevny, his younger brother, junior John Hall and sophomore Lucas Lee. This foursome will look to defend what was the program’s first state championship, won last October at Boulder Country Club.
“We know we are capable of winning. We just have to play well and stay focused,” said Nic Pevny, who was a spectator last year when brother Jack finished fourth at state. “I’ve been looking forward to playing in it all year, so it’s exciting for it to finally come. Just makes me want to win it more this year because I experienced it last year and it was super fun. So just makes me want to win it this year again.”
Last year’s team was special. That state foursome included seniors Dominic Lanese, Dawson Holmes and Jack Hughes, with Hughes having finished as the state runner-up behind champion Jackson Klutznick of Kent Denver. Peak to Peak’s Davis Long was third, with Jack Pevny fourth. Jack Pevny was third after shooting 68 in the first round last fall, but a 76 on the second day kept him from pushing for the top spot.
The eldest Pevny is looking to become the program’s first individual state champion. Three times has AHS had a state runner-up, a list that includes Hughes (2018), Will Hazen (2015) and Teddy Karlinski (2005).
“It’s definitely a different atmosphere than last year, a different mentality going into it,” Jack Pevny said. “But having it be my last year, there is definitely some extra incentive toward that. However it ends up, I’m definitely satisfied with my high school career and I can say that it’s been a good run.”
This is Jack Pevny’s third trip to the state tournament — he tied for 20th as a freshman before sitting out his sophomore season to attend a golf academy in Florida — while it will be the state debut for his three teammates on Monday.
“Many of these players that are very, very good, accomplished golfers, have very little tournament experience under their belt,” longtime AHS coach Mary Woulfe said. “It’s been a hard-fought battle and I think that’s going to serve us well. Being second at regionals in some ways takes a little pressure off. I think that’s not a bad thing going into the state championship to feel like the underdog a little bit, because I feel like we are.”
While the Pevny brothers have been the clear cut 1-2 players all season, AHS had as many as eight golfers competing for the final two regional spots throughout the season. Ultimately Hall and Lee were given the nod, but it was a grind to get there.
Among those who didn’t make the regional team was junior Jake Doyle, who actually won a tournament at Dos Rios Golf Club in Gunnison this fall. While these eight did lack serious tournament experience, Woulfe had plenty of talent to choose from.
“It was definitely a really intense season with a lot of competition between the team,” said Doyle, who planned to travel to Eisenhower to watch the team compete this week. “It makes you that much better as a player to be able to play with guys in your own town that are just as good as you or even better. Everyone can go out and win a tournament. It just depends on the day.”
The regional tournament, which AHS hosted at Aspen Golf Club, was a mixed bag for the Skiers. They finished second as a team, losing by two strokes to Montezuma-Cortez to end a streak of 10 straight regional championships. The last time Aspen had not won its regional happened to be in 2008, the last time it hosted.
Both Pevnys shot 76 to tie for fourth at regionals, a modest result by their standards. Hall shot 86 and tied for eighth, while Lee shot 104 to finish 36th in one of his worst performances of the season. Initially thought to have just missed the 10-shot cutoff to qualify as the team’s fourth member, Lee found out a day after regionals that he finished right on the line and would in fact get to compete at state.
“It feels like I got a second chance, because regionals, it was awful. It was really bad. So it feels really good,” Lee said. “We are coming off a state championship so that’s got a target on our back, but it’s a completely different team than last year. Not as much pressure I don’t think going into it. There is still pressure, but compared to last year where we were the favorites we’ve got really nothing to prove except go out there and shoot low.”
THIS LOOKS FAMILIAR
Aspen feels confident about its chances this week in large part because of the location. AHS played at Eisenhower earlier this fall and rolled to a team win. Jack Pevny won the individual title that day, and all the players feel the course suits their “mountain golf” style of play.
This familiarity could bode well for the state tournament.
“It’s really just my putter getting hot on those greens and making the smart decisions the coaches and I go over in the practice rounds,” Jack Pevny said. “It’s definitely a confidence booster because I know the course well enough and I know how I played it to have that success, so it’s just an easy benchmark to go into the practice round with and just kind of play that round the same way I did before and hopefully get the same results.”
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Rick Deane and David Swersky have been vital members of Mountain Rescue Aspen for a combined 82 years. They serve without a desire for recognition but they will be inducted Saturday into the Aspen Hall of Fame for their service and other contributions to the town.