EVERGREEN — It’s an exciting time for Evergreen’s boys golf team.
The Cougars have never won a state team championship in boys golf. However, with three returning players — seniors Lenny Urbas, Blake Kuzava and junior Bridger Tenney — all having finished in the top 30 last year at the Class 4A state tournament, Evergreen is lining up a shot to hoist a state trophy Sept. 27 at River Valley Ranch Golf Club in Carbondale.
“That culture of winning and doing it the right way is here now. I’m probably more excited about this group from top to bottom then any team we’ve ever had,” Evergreen coach Michael Kuzava said during practice Thursday, Aug. 11, at Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen. “Each day we have to get better. Our theme last year and carrying over to this year is: ‘We are going to win by not thinking about winning.’ It’s that important. The more they can stay in the moment the better they are going to do.”
Evergreen was on the tail of now three-time defending 4A team champion and 4A Jeffco League rival Valor Christian all last season. The Eagles were able to win their fifth team state title since 2009 distancing themselves from third-place Evergreen by 31 strokes.
Kuzava does believe the door is ajar when it comes to knocking off Valor, which graduated all of its state competitors last year. Kuzava, who is in his 16th season coaching the Cougars, has also changed his mindset about facing the private school from Highlands Ranch during all league tournaments along with state.
“Valor is the measuring stick for us,” Kuzava said. “A few years ago I really disliked having Valor play with us for various reasons, but then a couple of years ago I thought to be the best you have to beat the best. To play well you have to play against good competition. The more we play with Valor the better.”
Urban might prove to be one of the favorites to contend for an individual title at state. The Cougars’ top golf broke the school record last season firing a round of 66 at Fox Hollow Golf Course and placed seventh at the state tournament.
“It definitely helps to go out and shoot a round of 66,” said Urbas, who shot a round of 65 at Fox Hollow during tryouts Aug. 8. “It’s nice to know you have that in our forte to be able to go out and shoot that low of a round to help the team.”
While there is pressure with the opportunity ahead for Evergreen, the fact remains that golf is a sport where experience of being in tense situations is something the Cougars have with their three returning state qualifiers.
“There is pressure, but I don’t think I feel it that much anymore because it’s my senior season,” Urbas said. “We’ve all been here before.”
Tenney finished his sophomore campaign strong with a solid performance at regionals and going on to tied for 20th at state. The key contributor on Evergreen’s boys basketball team last season believes the Cougars have the tools to make it a historic season, but he doesn’t what to get too far ahead of himself.
“We know what we are capable of as a team, but at the same time you can’t be thinking about that mid-round,” Tenney said. “You have to focus on every shot.”
Blake Kuzava, the coach’s son, believes the team chemistry is strong to push the Cougars over the top this season.
“I think everyone in tournament golf feels pressure,” Blake Kuzava said. “I do think we are such a tight knit-team that we can rely on one another to distribute the pressure. It’s all about how you deal with it.”
One setback for Evergreen heading into the season was senior Liam Short deciding not to play his senior season. Short placed tied for 22nd at state. Senior Tyler Simon and sophomore Nolan Miller help with fill the void.
The 4A Jeffco League tournament schedule begins 8 a.m. Monday, Aug. 15, at Deer Creek Golf Course in Littleton.