Pevny, Aspen boys golf enters uncertain fall season with plenty of firepower
When the pros started swinging their clubs again, Cole Kennedy saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The Aspen High School senior believed then there would also be a golf season for the Skiers after months of uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Once the PGA started I knew we would probably have a season. I was happy about that,” Kennedy said. “It’s amazing. We don’t even know if we are going to go to school, but we get to play golf.”
Boys golf is one of four traditional fall sports seasons that is being allowed to take place somewhat as normal this year. The Colorado High School Activities Association released its updated COVID-19 schedule on Tuesday, with golf joining boys tennis, softball and cross country as being approved to play. Football, volleyball and boys soccer were all moved to March.
“The whole thing is creating an opportunity for us to teach the kids to be resilient,” said longtime AHS golf coach Mary Woulfe, who admitted she was doubtful they would have a season. “I’m as surprised as anybody. I’m so thrilled that Aspen High School has embraced it, and CHSAA has embraced golf, because it’s such a great social distance sport. We’ve proven over the summer that it’s one of the great places to go to stay healthy.”
Competition officially started statewide for boys golf on Thursday. The AHS golfers will make their season debut on Friday at Cedaredge Golf Club. A lot will look different — more masks, more social distancing, tee times instead of shotgun starts — but hopefully once clubs are in hand, it’ll look like golf as it should.
And if that’s the case, it’s fair to expect the Skiers to compete for more championships, as is usually the case.
“There are plenty of guys who can go low 70s or mid 70s and just keep us steady throughout the season,” AHS senior Jake Doyle said. “It’s amazing to be able to come out here. A lot of us didn’t think it was going to happen and that was going to be a huge bummer, especially being our senior year. But we are all happy to be here.”
With other fall sports, notably boys soccer and football, being moved to the spring, this has led to a lot of demand from AHS students wanting to go out for golf this fall.
“I think it’s really cool having all these athletes that wouldn’t normally be here, because of conflicting sports,” assistant coach and AHS grad Coulter Young said. “There are a bunch of kids from the soccer team that are here. It’s just cool to have that mix of people who are kind of into golf and are giving it a competitive shot.”
ALL EYES ON PEVNY
Another season, another Pevny leading the charge for AHS golf. Junior Nic Pevny enters the 2020 season as the unquestioned best golfer on the team, stepping into the shoes recently filled by his older brother, Jack Pevny, who graduated this past spring. Nic Pevny, who is plenty capable of shooting into the 60s, had been set on competing in many national and regional events this summer, but like so much else saw them canceled because of the pandemic.
“I’m really excited. It will be fun to play in the tournaments and be able to compete again,” Nic Pevny said. “I’m feeling pretty comfortable. I’ve played in a lot of tournaments and got a lot of experience, so I’m not too worried about it.”
Nic Pevny was just off the fringe for the Skiers as a freshman, competing mostly as their sixth player. Behind a deep senior class, AHS won the Class 3A state championship in 2018, its first as a program. Jack Pevny, then a junior, tied for fourth overall.
AHS finished fourth as a team at state in 2019, and Nic Pevny even outshot his brother by a stroke to finish tied for fourth overall. He’s easily in the mix as far as individual state title contenders are concerned this fall.
“I feel like the team is pretty strong this year,” Nic Pevny said. “We have a lot of seniors that are pretty good. So we should be pretty good this year.”
Exactly who makes up the regional squad will be anyone’s guess this fall. While Pevny remains a relative lock, the other three spots will come down to an intense 36-hole stretch next month. Last season, Woulfe crunched a lot of numbers to decide who made the regional team, but that wasn’t necessarily a popular method. This year, the plan is to have the players compete over 36 holes in the lead-up to the regional tournament, lowest scores getting the spots.
“I like that way better, because last year was a little bit confusing,” Doyle said. “But this year it will really just show it’s a lot easier to understand why you did or did not make the team.”
Doyle, who is again team co-captain with Kennedy this fall, was the first player left off the regional team last year. He’s using that disappointment as fuel for this season.
“It’s motivated me, for sure,” he said. “I’ve been practicing all when quarantine started and that’s pretty much all we’ve been doing is pretty much playing golf.”
Senior John Hall and junior Lucas Lee made up the rest of the four-man state team in 2019 alongside the Pevny brothers and are back this fall. But the list of regional hopefuls is much longer, and includes a couple of impressive young freshmen that could make a splash between now and that 36-hole free-for-all.
“There was a lot of disappointment from some older guys that felt they should have had those spots but maybe didn’t have the stats,” Woulfe said of last year’s qualifying format. “We kind of came to the consensus that there was a lot of concern and anxiety and upset about that.”
Should the schedule remain as planned, AHS will co-host the regional tournament alongside Basalt High School at River Valley Ranch near Carbondale in September. The Skiers hosted regionals at Aspen Golf Club last fall, and plan to host a regular-season tournament this season on Sept. 14, a week before regionals.
The Class 3A state tournament is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 5-6 at Dos Rios Golf Club in Gunnison. It’s a course very much familiar to the Skiers, and Doyle even won a tournament there a year ago.
“I’m really looking forward to it being there,” Woulfe said. “We own that course in a lot of ways for us. It’s going to be a challenging year for us. We’ve got great talent. We don’t have the national experience or the depth of tournaments that we’ve had in the past, but these kids are really ready and they are hungry for it.”