GRAND JUNCTION — Kyle Pearson knew it could be done. Really — he saw his own teammate score a hole-in-one a few days earlier on the same exact golf course.
And not only did Pearson know he could possibly grab a hole-in-one at the Class 5A boys golf state tournament, he also knew he was going to win the individual championship on Tuesday at Bookcliff Country Club. After Monday's first round, Pearson tweeted that he was "gonna bring home the W tomorrow!"
After finishing round one on Monday tied for second with Eaglecrest's Davis Bryant at five-under-par 66, the senior came back stronger than ever on the second day and played absolutely out of his mind.
The fast greens that were messing with everyone's putts? No problem.
"I like fast greens so I was fine with the speed," Pearson said. "I'd rather putt with super-fast greens than super-slow. The greens were rolling pretty good."
Wide open course? Perfect. And even though it was a little windy, no gust could stop the impressive hole-in-one.
Falcons teammate Jackson Crist scored a hole-in-one using a gap wedge during a practice round on Saturday, and Pearson took notes for when it was his turn to play hole No. 15, a 136-yard par 3.
"We both hit with the exact same club and spun the ball in," Pearson said. "As soon as it started rolling back, I thought I might have had a chance after seeing his the other day."
It was the second hole-in-one Pearson scored in his life.
"Just when you think you've seen it all in golf, something else incredible happens," longtime Falcons golf coach James Barker said.
Pearson and Bryant trailed leader Nick Caldwell of Rock Canyon by one stroke after the first round and teed off with him in the second. It was very close in the front nine holes, but Pearson began pulling away as the clear leader in the back nine.
He finished the second round 4-under and won the tournament 9-under. Davis was 2-over on the second round, 3-under overall; Caldwell 4-over on the round, 2-under in the tournament.
There was also a two-way tie for fourth place, 3-way tie for sixth and 3-way tie for ninth.
Even though Pearson was the obvious individual champion a few holes before the last, the team title was still a decision that came down to the very last putt. If Pearson birdied hole 18, the Falcons would dethrone the reigning team champion Regis Jesuit. If he parred, the teams would be tied and have to go to a playoff.
But Pearson hit one of his shots a little too far right and it veered off the fairway. He ended up getting a bogey, and the Raiders defended their 5A team title and won the by one stroke.
"I thought I had good yardage, and didn't think it was that hard of a shot, I just shot the ball in a foot of grass and we barely found it," Pearson said. "After that I was just trying to make par."
Pearson is the second individual Falcon to win the boys golf championship, the other champion being coach Barker's son, Caleb, in 2009. Highlands Ranch finished as the team state runner-up for the sixth time.
"We started the day about six shots back, then got close to the lead, then fell six shots back again," Barker said. "And then we got close to the lead again and it came down to the last hole, and we couldn’t quite finish the job, but it was a great comeback."
Pearson had 10 birdies and 3 bogeys for the entire tournament. Ryan Pearson finished the tournament tied for 14th with Regis Jesuit's Justin Markel at 7-over-par 149. Crist was in a four-way tie for 33rd with a 155, and Andrew Davis shot a 172 both rounds for a 3-way tie at 78th finish.
"Kyle carried us," Barker said. "He’s a little streaky as a player, but when he gets going, and I’ve seen that quite a few times over the last four years, he can really light it up."
And while it must have been extremely stressful for Pearson to go into the 18th hole knowing the team title depended entirely upon his stroke count, there was also stress on the grass hill behind the 18 green, when the Raiders had to hold tight before celebrating a sixth team title in the last seven years.
"Oh, yeah, we were watching," Regis Jesuit golf coach Craig Rogers said. "We knew he was the last guy on the course and he was also the best player out here in the whole tournament. Believe me, it wasn't easy knowing Highlands Ranch had a guy who was so talented still left out there on the course with a chance to beat us."
Rogers said his team played very well too and was very proud of his players.
"Kind of our horse the last few years has been Tyler Zhang, and he's been hurt. He was in a car accident and was in some pain and certainly capable of being the individual medalist out here, he's that caliber of a player," Rogers said.
Zhang, a senior who will play golf at Regis University next year, shot a 150 for the whole tournament and finished in a four-way tie for 16th place. He was in the front passenger seat when a friend was driving and rear-ended another car the day of golf regionals.
"In injured my back and have been icing it and taking Advil," Zhang said. "But everyone involved is fine."
He added: "I feel good now, I'm kind of holding this trophy right now."
Drew Anderson and Cal McCoy shot a 2-over-par 144 overall to finish in a three-way tie for sixth place.