AHS golf heads to state with maturity, confidence after regional performance
Call it a disadvantage if you will, but Aspen High School senior Carter Hall didn’t always have the luxury of spending countless days on a golf course during the summer. Instead, he’d roam the country with his family, often going from national park to national park, part of his father’s job as president and co-founder of http://www.wildernet.com.
“Carter would pull his golf clubs along and convince his dad to take him to a golf course. But while the other kids were playing summer golf tournaments, Carter was traveling,” AHS boys golf coach Mary Woulfe said. “He’s a really well rounded kid that knows what he wants and is really confident in who he is and what he wants to do. And I really like that about him.”
And playing in his first and only season of varsity golf with the Skiers, it’s come as somewhat of a surprise that Hall will lead the team as it heads to the Class 3A state tournament on Monday and Tuesday, played at Indian Peaks Golf Course in Lafayette.
Hall, who is a bit short on stature and power, carved up Devil’s Thumb Golf Course in Delta during the regional tournament on Sept. 18, shooting a 3-under-par 69 to win the regional title.
“Out of anyone who deserved it, it was him,” AHS junior Dominic Lanese said of Hall. “He’s been working the hardest. To see it pay off was so cool.”
Hall only picked up golf right before high school. He’s had to wait patiently for his turn the past four years, and a key reason he was given the chance this year is the absence of junior Jack Hughes and sophomore Jack Pevny, both state qualifiers from a year ago, who each opted to spend the season attending the Bishops Gate Golf Academy in Florida.
And battling alongside close friend Miles McConnell — the team’s alternate at state — Hall had to fend off a myriad of seniors for the fourth and final varsity spot.
“I’ve been working hard all four years trying to get to this spot,” Hall said. “All I wanted to do was get better, because I love the game. I’ve been patiently waiting, patiently getting better, and it finally came together on the year it mattered. I’ve had quite a few disappointing rounds, but learned from them.”
Hall, who Woulfe called a “range rat” for his incredible work ethic and commitment to the driving range, certainly won’t have to carry the Skiers at the state tournament this week. While he won the regional title, his three teammates finished right behind him in second, third and fourth. In fact, all four of Aspen’s golfers shot under par at regionals to help AHS win the team title by 22 strokes over second place Basalt High School.
With Hall leading the way with his 69, AHS junior Dawson Holmes was second at regionals with 70, while Lanese and junior Colter Zwieg each shot 1-under-par 71 to tie for third. It was the ninth consecutive regional title for Aspen.
“It’s always been very doable for this group of guys. I think the intense level of competition we had for third and fourth place all year long really helped bring out the best in Colter and Carter,” Woulfe said. “That’s created a mental toughness we haven’t had before with everybody. We’ve created an environment in practice this year that has been much more measured in trying to take advantage of the time we have to practice.”
Woulfe credits much of this team’s success to maturity. A year ago, the Skiers sent three sophomores and a freshman to the state tournament, and the team struggled down the stretch. AHS finished fifth in 3A last fall, but shot 10 strokes worse on the second day from the first and was well behind state champion Kent Denver and runner-up Peak to Peak.
While Hall and Zwieg will play in the state tournament for the first time Monday, Lanese, who was a regional champion as a freshman, is headed to the big show for the third time, and Holmes is back for his second try.
“We were all a little underprepared. A few of us shot in the 70s first day and then second day no one played well at all,” Holmes said of state last year. “All of us can shoot very low numbers, evidenced by our season, but it’s all a matter of putting it together and I think we have the group that’s going to do that.”
And the numbers back the claim. Hall’s 69 tied only three other players in 3A for the best round among the regional tournaments. Among those players is Kent Denver’s Jack Oliver, who won the individual 3A state title last season in a playoff. Aspen’s dominance at regionals certainly puts it among the favorites as it goes for its first team title in school history.
“I’m not going to treat it any different. I didn’t treat regionals any different than any other tournament. Just got to go play the game I can play,” Hall said of state. “We don’t want to be overconfident, but with that in mind we know what we can do. If we perform and don’t let the mental game get in the way, we will come out on top.”
Basalt is sending an experienced foursome to the state tournament and could contend for a top-five finish. Playing for the Longhorns are Blake Exelbert, Holden Kleager, Tanner Korn and Drew Broadhurst. BHS includes players from both Glenwood Springs and Roaring Fork high schools.
Basalt took eighth as a team in Class 3A last season.
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Teams have two more weekends of racing before the scheduled regional meet on Oct. 9 in Durango. The state cross country meet is slated for Oct. 17 in Colorado Springs.