AURORA -- Spencer Painton ended the first nine holes by shooting a 37, or 1-over par. After 18, though, he was on top of the leaderboard.
Painton, a senior from Regis Jesuit, shot a 6-under 66 to lead the field at the Class 5A boys golf state championships, which teed-off Monday at Murphy Creek Golf Course in Aurora.
“I got some nerves out of the way at the start of the day,” said Painton. “I felt like I hit a lot of good putts, but just couldn’t find the hole on the front.”
Legacy's Li Chen is in second following a 5-under 65, while Keegan Sheard from Ralston Valley sits in third at 2-under 70. (Full results)
Painton took over the second half of the course by shooting a 29. He recorded birdies on his last six holes.
Painton said that he felt the last hole was his best. On 18, Painton hit a 330-to-340 yard drive, hit an approach about 10 feet from the hole, and then sealed the lead with a clutch putt to finish the day.
“My putter and long swing were doing really well on the front -- and then the putt started heating up on the back," Painton said.
Last season, Painton finished just one stroke behind state champion Kyler Dunkle of Douglas County. He and Chen tied for second.
So far in this year's championship, Dunkle is tied for seventh with six other players at 1-over 73.
Painton comes into the state tournament as the 5A boys golf Central regional qualifying champion. He won the qualifier, which was also played at Murphy Creek, by finishing at 4-under 66. Chen also played in the qualifier, but finished tied for 13th at 7-over 77.
Regis leads all teams at 4-under. Ralston Valley is nine strokes behind Regis, enough for second place. Cherry Creek and Legacy are tied for third at 6-over.
“We gained momentum after starting the game behind the lead by seven shots,” said Regis Jesuit coach Craig Rogers. “It was a pretty awesome example of the perseverance we have as a team.”
Jake Kelley and Chris Korte of Regis both had a good day, shooting 1-under and 3-over, respectively. Last year, Korte finished tied for sixth, shooting 8-over.
Rogers has a strong game plan for the second round.
“We need to maintain a lot of confidence,” Rogers said. “We can’t coast by any means, there are a lot of good teams out there. We need to play a little bit aggressive -- and pick our moments.”
Rogers’ team has won state championships the past three years. Last year's squad won the title with a 20-over 446, eight strokes ahead of Ralston Valley.
In 4A, at the Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen, Andrew Rademacher-Howe of Silver Creek leads the field at one-under 69. Glenn Workman, from Pueblo West, and Isaac Petersillie of Coronado are tied for second at even-par 70.
Silver Creek currently leads all teams in 4A with 13-over. Valor Christian holds second at 18-over and Cheyenne Mountain sits in third at 20-over.
On 3A's day one at Pueblo Country Club, Alexander Dawson teammates Cameron Connor and Cole Folwell are tied for first in at 2-under 69. Tristan Rohrbaugh from Basalt will go into the second round at even-par 71.
Alexander Dawson has a commanding lead in 3A -- they’re 22 strokes ahead of second-place Kent Denver, which finished at 22-over 235. Kent has won the past seven championships.
The second round of each state championship will begin tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. Medals will be awarded following each of the rounds where a state championship will be crowned.