AURORA – You have to hand it to the Discovery Canyon foursome on their performance on Monday at CommonGround G.C. in the opening round of the Class 4A state golf tournament.
Mere moments before their collective morning tee times, the Thunder group of Emily Cheng, Christina Cheng, Lauren Jaworowski and Mena Song-Lew got the usual words of encouragement from their coach Mark Liggett.
But they didn't get to see his face, just heard his voice from back home in Colorado Springs, where he was at the bedside of his wife Susan, who is still in the hospital after complications from a surgery the week prior.
The Thunder (team score of 255), who to a player will admit they didn't play their best golf on Monday in the ideal conditions at CommonGround, played for their coach and will carry an eight-shot lead over Holy Family (263) into Tuesday's second round. Cheyenne Mountain (266) is in third and both Windsor (272) and Mullen (272) are lurking in fourth.
"They were all in a better mood this morning when they got the news last night that (Susan) had come out of her third surgery and found out what was making her so sick," said Discovery Canyon assistant coach David Schwartz, whose team is in search of its first title in the sport. "They were happy to hear that and they all had a chance to talk to him on the phone and that put them all at ease that she is in a better place at least physically."
Sophomore Emily Cheng led the way for Discovery Canyon, firing a 6-over par 78 on the 5,907-yard layout. She sits alone in third place and will be in the final pairing tomorrow with Holy Family's Jessica Mason (3-under par, 69) and Mead's Timbre Shehee (77).
Christina Cheng (88) and Jaworowski (89) rounded out the scoring three for Discovery Canyon.
"They did exactly what they needed to do today, finish in first place, and I think tomorrow will be a better day," Schwartz said. "They didn't play their best today and our top three really weren't on their game, but we are looking forward to tomorrow and the warm weather."
Schwartz and his team, who are hoping to have Liggett back tomorrow, know that the course they saw on Monday – damp and somewhat receptive after the overnight rains – will play a lot differently on Tuesday in what is supposed to be a 90-plus degree dry day.
"It did play a little slower as compared to the practice round yesterday and that is the most difficult thing for younger players is to readapt to changing conditions," he said. "Tomorrow will be a totally different day and now that they have the bad rounds out of the way, they know what is in store for them tomorrow."
As for Mason, who is attempting to keep the medalist honors at Holy Family after three straight wins by Hailey Schalk from 2017-2019, it was a nearly flawless round of golf.
The Tigers junior had it to 4-under after pouring in a 12-foot eagle putt on No. 15, and ultimately finished with a 3-under score of 69. The only blemishes on the card were a couple of three putt bogeys on the inward nine's two difficult par-3's.
Mason will carry an eight shot lead into tomorrow's final round and will have a front row seat to watch her two closest chasers try and catch her.
"I was relaxed today and everything was good today, so tomorrow I just have to come back out and do the same thing," said Mason, who went a perfect 5-for-5 in Northern Colorado Athletic Conference tournaments this season. "Even if you do have an eight-shot lead, you still have to play well."