Regis Jesuit senior Cole Cunningham poses before boys golf tryouts Aug. 6 at Wellshire Country Club in Denver. Cunningham has been a part of the Raiders last two Class 5A state championship winning teams. Boys golf practice on Aug. 6 marked the beginning of the 2012 fall prep sports season. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)
Championships are always satisfying to win for Regis Jesuit boys golf coach Craig Rogers, but seeing which of his players emerges when the chips are down is just as rewarding.
For several years, Rogers has been fortunate to have a loaded group of players battling each other all season to represent the school at the state tournament. It’s not always who starts the year who finishes it for the Raiders, who have captured the past two Class 5A state championships.
Depth is again a boon for Regis Jesuit in 2012, as 15 players carded rounds in the 70s in tryouts, giving Rogers reason for optimism.
“We’re very deep again and a lot of kids got better over the summer, clearly,” Rogers said during tryouts Aug. 7 at Aurora’s Meadow Hills Golf Course.
“It’s neat what we saw last year in some guys who waited their turn, went to the state tournament, played well and won it,” he added. “That’s always what we get excited about this time of year, to see who has worked hard and is ready to step up and make it their time.”
Last year it was Ryan Schmitz and Daniel Johnson who made their way into Regis Jesuit’s state group for the first time as seniors and teamed with Gus Lundquist and Cole Cunningham to help the Raiders repeat. Johnson sank a par putt in a one-hole, eight-man playoff to lift Regis Jesuit over Cherry Creek.
This year, it could be seniors Cody Leis and Nick Miller or junior Chris Korte, who emerged with Cunningham at the top of a very competitive tryout session. Or it could be junior Spencer Painton or a number of others.
Even Cunningham, who has been a key part of the last two championship teams and a top-five individual finisher in the past two seasons, knows he can’t let up.
“We’ve always had a lot of depth, so even senior year and being in the top four every time, you still have to have your game on,” Cunningham said. “That’s extra motivation and it makes it fun.”
Cunningham played well in tryouts and continues to mature in his approach to the game. He’s trying to slow himself down and make his play more of a process instead of “just hitting driver off the tee and going all out.”
When it’s all said and done, Cunningham — third as a sophomore and tied for fifth at state last year — hopes to duplicate the feat of Lundquist, who became Regis Jesuit’s first ever individual state champion last year.
“I’m just trying to stay in the present and that’s the best way to reach my end goal, winning team state and individual,” said Cunningham, who also hopes his performance helps him find a college program he wants to play for.
Miller spent two seasons on junior varsity, crept into the top 10 last year and will at least start this season in the top foursome. With a strong putting game at his command and better distance off the tee, he feels like it could be his time to contribute.
“Ultimately my goal is to help the team win state again,” said Miller, who also hopes to play in college.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-750-7555