ARVADA – The Arapahoe boys golf team has been full of surprises at the Class 5A state tournament these past couple years.
Last fall, it was then-sophomore Will Kates who came out of nowhere on Day 2 to claim the individual title as a relative unknown. This time around, it’s a different Warriors golfer who has put himself, and his team, in position to win it all with a strong final round on Day 2. He's also got some company as a leading man emerging out of darkhorse status.
Facing some exceedingly windy conditions that made Rolling Hills Golf Course even tougher than usual on Monday, Arapahoe senior Graham Dzengelewski led nearly wire-to-wire on his way to carding a 2-over 73 that ties him with Pine Creek sophomore Wesley Erling for the lead heading into Day 2. The two tied one another for 37th place at last year's state tournament and certainly weren't counted among the top contenders when they arrived at the 2020 championships.
They are now.
“With Will last year, that was a surprise to everybody,” Dzengelewski said. “But I think we all know we all have a chance at it every year, so it’s nice to be able to have that team and have a bunch of guys who come to state ready to go for it.”
Dzengelewski showed up to his final state tournament ready.
The Arapahoe senior started out the day with an eagle on the first hole, a 521-yard par 5. He added two more birdies on the front nine and hit the turn at 3-under. Getting to 3-under quickly turned out to be exactly the cushion he needed to finish the day with a share of the lead, as Dzengelewski picked up three strokes over the final three holes while Erling went 2-under on the back nine.
With Dzengelewski and Erling battling atop the leaderboard, the Arapahoe boys finished Day 1 a single stroke ahead of Valor Christian for the team lead.
“That’s probably the best start I’ve had in a while,” Dzengelewski said. “I think I played the wind pretty well but, ultimately, it comes down to hitting fairways, hitting greens and making putts. I hit a few bad shots but that happens and felt like I put myself in good positions out there so I’ll try to keep doing that tomorrow.”
Behind the Day 1 leaders, Valor Christian senior Lucas Schulte ended his day with a birdie on No. 9 and carded matching 37’s for an overall 74 that tied him with Cherry Creek sophomore Charlie Flaxbeard for third. Sophomore Colin Young, Schulte’s teammate with the Eagles, shot a 75 and will enter Day 2 tied for fifth with Rocky Mountain senior Ty Nelson.
“We started on the back and we had like forty-mile-per-hour winds straight in our face,” Schulte said. “That was tough, so getting off to a good start was important. On No. 8, so my 17th hole, I hit two bad tee shots out on the right. Long story short, I had to take a penalty and then I made a thirty-foot bogey putt. I made a birdie on the last to finish off so I’ll try to carry that over to tomorrow.”
Despite the blustery conditions, 24 golfers shot in the 70’s on Monday. Among them was Kates, who began his title defense with a 77 and is currently in a six-way tie for 10th.
Arvada West sophomore Yusuke Ogi was not among the players who shot in the 70’s, but he might have had the most special day of anyone at Rolling Hills. On the par-3 13th hole, Ogi sank his tee shot from 219 yards out for the second hole in one of his prep career. His first was at regionals last season.
“I was like eight over by the time I got to that hole and I just didn’t feel like I had it,” Ogi said. “The wind was blowing and I don’t know how that happened. I was just in disbelief.”
With Monday’s eventful first round in the books, Colorado’s 5A players will certainly go to bed tonight hoping they wake up to more favorable conditions in which to go for it all on Tuesday.