With one more chance to go for a state title, Eaglecrest's Davis Bryant is doing everything possible to make a run for the top spot in Class 5A.
Last September, he finished the state tournament at three-under-par, placing second to Highland Ranch's Kyle Pearson.
So Bryant did the most natural thing he could do as a golfer. He sought tough competition and he continued to work on his game. That work took him to the 2017 U.S Junior Amateur which was held at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan.
He played well enough in the first two days to make the 64-player cut, which was then broken down into a match play bracket.
“I played it two years ago and it was the same thing, it was an awesome experience," Bryant said. "I played a lot better (this time) which made it more enjoyable. It was really cool, a great golf course and obviously great competition."
Bryant trailed Korean Won Jun Lee by one hole going into 18, but he refused to go quietly. The Colorado State commit sank a birdie on the hole to extend the match into sudden death.
It took three additional holes, but it was Lee who finally broke the tie and was able to advance to the round of 32.
The one-on-one atmosphere is something that Bryant admittedly doesn't get to experience very often. Few of the junior tournaments that he plays in have a match play format.
However, he did find it to be beneficial. In high school tournaments, there is no match play and everything is done through strokes.
“I feel like no matter if you’re playing stroke play or match play, it’s going to be similar (in that atmosphere)," Bryant said. "In the end, you’re just playing golf and trying to get the ball in the least amount of shots. It’s just in stroke play, you’re playing against the course and with match play, you’re playing against another person.”
Bryant and Pearson entered the final day of last year's state tournament locked in a tie for second place.
But Pearson was nearly unstoppable on the last day. He ended with a 67, including a hole-in-one on the par 3 15th to claim the title.
"Kyle played really well that day," Bryant said. "I just couldn't get a putt to go in the hole."
But he'll have another shot in October when the 5A state tournament rolls in CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora. It just so happens to be a course that is 15 minutes from Bryant's house and one that he's played often.
When my coach (Stan Adams) texted me and told me that state was going to be at CommonGround, I was really excited," Bryant said. "I've played there numerous times. I like the course and I like the layout of it. It's a good fit for a state tournament and a good fit for my game."
While Bryant takes aim at the individual championship, the three team champions are all returning at least two all-state players and have their eyes on repeating.
But as with any sport, a championship has to be earned and in order to claim one, the kids have to keep working.
Part of that is making sure they're playing the right level of competition in order to get better each day as the season progresses.
"I want us to play the very best teams that we can and I work hard on our schedule every year," Kent Denver coach Bob Austin said. "We are going to a national tournament in Chandler, Arizona which I am really looking forward to.
The Sun Devils claimed the 3A title last year and defending 5A champion Regis Jesuit will join them in Arizona.
Defending 4A champion Discovery Canyon brings back Luke Trujillo, who claimed the 4A individual title, and Caleb Blackburn. The Thunder's win back in September was the first team state championship in school history and they're looking to grab another.
But the common theme amongst all golf teams across the state is general excitement for the start of the season. While teams and individuals will certainly take aim ending the season at the top of the leaderboards, the coaches are also insistent that the kids just take the time to enjoy getting out on the course and playing a game that they can continue to play for the majority of their lives.
"I want these kids to have lifetime great experiences whether they win or lose," Austin said.
Boys golf preview
2016 individual champions:
- 5A: Kyle Pearson, Highlands Ranch (graduated)
- 4A: Luke Trujillo, Discovery Canyon (senior)
- 3A: Oliver Jack, Kent Denver (senior)
Defending team champions:
- 5A: Regis Jesuit
- 4A: Discovery Canyon
- 3A: Kent Denver
- 5A: Drew Anderson (Sr.) Regis Jesuit, Davis Bryant (Sr.) Eaglecrest, Josh Caridi (Sr.) Fossil Ridge, Cal McCoy (Sr.) Regis Jesuit, Kailer Rundiks (Sr.) Denver East
- 4A: Caleb Blackburn (Sr.) Discovery Canyon, Darren Edwards (Sr.) Thompson Valley, Barrett Jones (Sr.) Eagle Valley, Tyler Severin (Sr.) Roosevelt, Micah Stangebye (So.) Montrose, Luke Trujillo (Sr.) Discovery Canyon
- 3A: Nishant Datta (Sr.) Peak to Peak, Peter Grossenbacher (Jr.) Eaton, Billy Howenstein (Jr.) Dawson, Oliver Jack (Sr.) Kent Denver, Jackson Klutznick (Jr.) Kent Denver, Jacob Mason (So.) Jefferson Academy, Liam O'Halloran (So.) The Classical Academy, Ivan Richmond (Sr.) Estes Park, Ethan Tartaglia (Sr.) Peak to Peak, Ian Thorpe (Sr.) Peak to Peak, Ben Zimmerman (So.) Kent Denver
Regular season begins: Aug. 10
Regionals: Completed by Sept. 22
State meets: Oct. 2-3