UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY — One could only imagine what was going through the heads of Coach Will Wilson and his foursome of Jacob Mason, Jackson Grace, Garrett Green and Leo Nelson as they sat on the bleachers behind the 18th green at the Eisenhower Blue Course watching the final groups come in.
There is a good chance the Holy Family quartet was replaying the last 36 holes of the Class 3A state championship over in their heads and playing the woulda, shoulda coulda game about shots they left out on the course.
They will likely do that for some time.
As it was, the Tigers, who led for most of the day on Tuesday after a brilliant start, faded down the stretch and finished five shots behind Lutheran — which not only won the team title (with just three guys mind you), but also had the medalist in Weston Pals.
“I’m so proud of everyone and everything that we accomplished this year,” said Mason, a senior, who fired a 1-over 73 on Day 2 to finish alone in third place. “I’m proud of myself today, to come back after a rough day yesterday and put all that I had out on the course.
“We came up a little bit short, but it was a great team effort, and at the end of the day, we should be proud of what we accomplished.”
With the wind gusting early on, the Tigers clawed their way back from the three shot deficit they faced against both Day 1 leaders Lutheran and Aspen. Eisenhower’s tough greens again wreaked havoc with the field and limiting the damage on the ultra slick surfaces was the key to hanging around.
By the time all of the Tigers had made the turn, their lead on Lutheran was a healthy five shots. And it would be easy to point to one hole on Tuesday that might have done the Tigers in.
The par-5 11th, a three shot hole — notably because of the water guarding the front of the green — jumped up and bit Mason, Grace and especially Green. The trio played the hole in a collective 5-over and the lead quickly went away.
Still they knew they were in contention and just and to make some big shots down the stretch.
“For the most part I knew where we were and I knew on No. 13 that I had to get something going,” Mason said. And after parring 13 and going up to 14 after the bad second, then begin able to chip in there (for birdie), I knew that huge. Then the birdie on 15 was even better.”
The pressure of the finishing holes, with the crowd getting bigger and bigger made things tough for the Tigers down the stretch. Grace, who looked like he was all over the flag on the par-3 17th, ended up over the green and ultimately carded a double bogey.
Holy Family could only sit, watch and hope for Lutheran mistakes in the final few groups, but the Lions played well all day and did what they needed to do to win the tournament.
Green finished tied for 15th, with a two day total of 15-over 159. Grace, a junior who will have a chance to get back to state at Dos Rios next year in Gunnison, was two shots back of that, tied for 21st at 161. Nelson improved on his Day 1 score, finishing at 180.
CLASS 3A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
At Eisenhower Blue Course (par – 72)
Team scores — Lutheran 232-234 — 466, Holy Family 235-236 — 471, Colorado Academy 242-236 — 478, Aspen 232-247 — 479, Kent Denver 237-243 — 480, Sterling 238-246 — 484, Montezuma-Cortez 248-255 — 503, Resurrection Christian 246-257 — 503, The Classical Academy 248-260 — 508, Basalt 262-247 — 509, Eaton 265-253 — 518, Gunnison 261-267 — 528, Delta 292-289 — 581.
Individuals — 1. Weston Pals, Lutheran, 144 (E)*; 2. Walker Franklin, Prospect Ridge, 144 (E); 3. Jacob Mason, Holy Family, 151 (+7); T4. Tayleb Schaefer, Sterling, 152 (+8); T4. Nic Pevny, Aspen, 152 (+8); T4. Jeffrey Zhou, Kent Denver, 152 (+8); T7. Max Noffsinger, Frontier Academy, 153 (+9); T7. Jacobo Arongo, Kent Denver, 153 (+9); T7. Peter Stinar, St. Mary’s, 153 (+9); T7. Jack Pevny, Aspen, 153 (+9).
Holy Family finishers — Garrett Green 159 (+15); Jackson Grace 161 (+17); Leo Nelson 180 (+36).