Three down, one to go.
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Evergreen junior Tyler Long is one Class 4A Jeffco League boys golf individual medalist title away from the unthinkable. Long captured his third straight conference title Tuesday at West Woods Golf Club shooting a 2-under-par, 70.
“It means something to me,” Long said about having the chance for a four-peat next year. “I really don’t think about it. I just play my game. If it happens, it happens.”
What happened early in his round could have been a major disaster for an average high school golfer. Long started his round 3-over-par through the first two holes to spot the rest of the field early on.
“I just hit two balls in the hazard those first two (holes),” Long said. “It wasn’t great, but I was glad I was able to come back.”
Long went bogey-free in his last 16 holes, pouring in five birdies to finish with a round of 70.
“I just know there is a lot of golf left,” Long said of dealing with his double-bogey, bogey start. “You have to stay patient. It is better to do that early in the round than be 3-over-par through 15 holes.”
The junior won four of the six 4A Jeffco League tournaments and finished with a 68.60 scoring average in the five league tournaments he played. Long shot an incredible round of 61 at Lake Arbor Golf Course earlier this season.
Evergreen did win its fourth straight 4A team title. Golden was a distant second place a full 180 strokes behind the Cougars. Juniors Liam Houlihan and Lincoln Mackay allowed the Cougars to sweep the top-3 spots in the all-conference standings.
Long and the Cougars should be one of the top contenders for the 4A team title in a few weeks.
“Hopefully we can give it a better run this year,” Long said of the 4A state tournament coming up Oct. 2 and 3 at The Bridges in Montrose. “I think we are ready.”
First up for Long and the Cougars is regionals. Long said the Cougars know their regional course in Colorado Springs — Country Club of Colorado — very well. Evergreen, along with all the other 4A Jeffco programs, will compete at the 4A Region 2 tournament Wednesday, Sept. 20.
On the 5A side, Chatfield junior Jesse Hand won the individual title. For the third straight year the medalist title was decided in an extremely close race.
Hand edged out Valor Christian senior Ethan Rainey by a single stroke. Columbine junior Alex Lest finished third, just two strokes behind Hand.
“Honestly, I knew I was able couple of strokes back going into the day,” Hand said. “I didn’t know until the last hole that I had a chance.”
Hand asked his coach if he needed to eagle his final hole to take the medalist title. The junior was relieved when he was told he actually had a 1-shot lead going into the par 5 18th.
Still, Hand had to scramble to make par after a poor third shot. His pitch to the green hit the flag stick and he was able to make a short putt for par to shoot an even-par, 72.
“It was a lot of fun, but a stressful finish for sure,” Hand said.
Valor won the team title with Columbine finishing second and Chatfield third. The Chargers will head to the 5A Central Regional tournament at the University of Denver Golf Club in Highlands Ranch on Sept. 20.
Hand is already a 2-time state qualifier his freshman and sophomore seasons, but winning his first league title does put some pressure on him.
“I just have to somehow break this curse that is happening,” Hand said. “I’m going to try to forget winning this and kind of move on. I want to focus a lot on regionals. It isn’t a give-in.”
The curse is the past two 5A Jeffco League medalist haven’t qualified for state. In 2021, Lakewood’s Max Lange won the 5A Jeffco League medalist title, but didn’t qualify for state after a poor round at regionals. The same fate happened last season with Ralston Valley’s Dimarco Benallo — 5A Jeffco’s 2022 individual champion.
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.
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