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Pair of golfers qualify for state

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By Brian Forbes

LAKEWOOD — When it became clear the Evergreen boys golf team was not going to claim a vital top-two team finish at the Class 4A Metro regional tournament Sept. 22, the Cougars went into survival mode.

Top player Ryan Hooks got off to a surprisingly unlucky start at his homelinks at Foothills Golf Course and was as many as seven shots over par. Although he was probably not in danger of missing the cut, stranger things have happened.

Kind of like what befell No. 2 player Bryan Schlichter, who was hitting strong all afternoon before suddenly shooting 7-over on the last three holes alone.

The Cougars’ outside chances of qualifying their team for the state tournament were dashed by a sixth-place finish, but they will send Hooks and Schlichter, who joined coach Mike Kuzava in the ranks of the frustrated and disappointed after 18 holes of sun and wind.

“My goal is to always qualify the team, so I’m a little disappointed,” Kuzava said. “We’re heading in the right direction, but you’re always hoping you’re going to do better than what you should do.”

Hooks shot a 5-over 77 and Schlichter carded an 81 to lead the Cougars, who scored a 245 as a team. Tate Berry, playing out of the No. 3 spot, shot a 90 and No. 4 Adam Reifman fired an 87. As expected, Jefferson County League champions D’Evelyn scorched the field a year after collapsing at this stage by firing a 217, 11 strokes ahead of second place Rock Canyon.

Kuzava said earlier in the tournament that he hoped the Cougars could contend with Rock Canyon, only to see his team slip behind Valor Christian, Wheat Ridge and Arvada.

Hooks double-bogeyed the first hole and then cranked his second shot off the No. 2 fairway about 30 yards out of bounds. He was 3-over after two holes and continued to struggle through most of the front nine.

“All I wanted to do was make a par at first,” Hooks said. “I knew I’d get a couple birdies, eventually, and get a couple shots back.”

Hooks’ putting hurt him early as he lipped out about four shots. Hooks would rally laterand hit several 5- and 6-foot putts for par.

“I still think at the state tournament, he could make some noise,” Kuzava said of Hooks. “Today was an off day and he still was 5-over par. It showed a lot of guts.”

Schlichter was crushing the ball off the tees, which is a talent that would make just about any golfer enviable. Any golfer except Schlichter, of course.

“I hit it too far the whole day,” Schlichter said. “I’d be inside 100 yards and it’s hard to club down when I hit my lowest club 100 yards. It’s hard to hit half a shot there.”

Although he sometimes struggled with his second shots, Schlicter was strong chipping at putting before things fell apart. Kuzava said that Schlicter was dealing with a small case of nerves heading into his final holes.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a finish that bad my whole career golfing,” Schlichter said.

The 4A state tournament runs Oct. 6 and 7 at Yampa Valley Golf Course in Craig. Hooks and Schlichter played the course last week.

“It’s not as nice as everyone would like, but I personally like the course,” Hooks said. “It’s a little shorter, but it’s real tight. You have to hit the fairways.”