COLORADO SPRINGS — Micah Stangebye's long birdie putt on No. 18 was quite the exclamation point on his round. He had been good all day but when the ball fell into the cup, the argument could be made that he finished with a great round.
He shot a 3-under-par-69 to grab the individual lead at the Class 4A boys state golf tournament. His teammates also benefited from his 18-hole score as Montrose also came away with the team lead, besting Steamboat Springs by eight shots.
The Indians won the 4A state title last year and knew coming into this year that they were going to get everyone's best shot.
“You have a target on your back," coach Dave Woodruff said. "All season long people want to knock the defending champs off. The kids have been there and they’re used to that kind of thing. We’re just telling them to relax and play a round of golf and see what happens.”
That's the way they approached round one. And it paid off. Stangebye got things rolling off the first tee, making a birdie on the long par-4.
He followed it up with a birdie on No. 2 to quickly move to two-under and feeling like he was able to take advantage of the friendly conditions the Club at Flying Horse had to offer early in the day.
“Going into hole one, I thought par was a good start because it’s not an easy hole," Stangebye said. "I made birdie and thought that I had an advantage at that point. On birdie two, I realized putts were going in and I felt pretty good.”
The same could be said for Mead's TJ Shehee. The senior finished 14th in last year's tournament and felt good about his round at the start of the day. Like Stangebye, he birdied No. 1, but as the day rolled in he struggled on the putting greens.
“I couldn’t make any putts today and I got a little sloppy on my last two holes," Shehee said. "Aside from that, it was just a consistently boring day all day.”
That boring day resulted in a 74, leaving him five shots behind Stangebye. There are five other players within five shots of the leader, including Steamboat Springs' Jack Rotermund who is in a tie for second after shooting 73. Steamboat is also second in the team races, trailing Montrose by eight shots.
Rotermund knows that if he can make up strokes on Stangebye it will also benefit the team. The key to making up those strokes is eliminating unforced errors, such as a shot that went into the hazard on No. 14, which resulted in a double-bogey.
“The unforced for me, blocking it right into the hazard on 14, hurt the team," Rotermund said. "You can’t hit every shot perfectly, but we just have to limit those mistakes.”
Groups will go off at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning as the second round will complete the state tournament. The key for Stangebye and Woodruff in keeping the lead is to treat Tuesday morning, and Monday night for that matter, is to keep their minds off golf.
An easy way to do that was to get the kids together and enjoy watching some Monday Night Football.
“I think we’ll probably just watch the Broncos and play it as just another round tomorrow," Woodruff said. "We’ll get some rest and I just want them to have fun and enjoy the time they have out there.”
If they enjoy that time, Woodruff is convinced they'll play well. As he tries to get the sweep for the individual and team titles, Stangebye isn't afraid to draw off the energy from his teammates. They might be on the course individually, but he knows they're all for one and one for all.
“When everyone is playing well it comes to me," Stangebye said. "When they play well, I play well.”
If they play well on Tuesday, Montrose will have plenty of new hardware to take back to the Western Slope.