Valor Christian boys golf coach Justen Byler wasn't surprised that his team won the Class 5A state championship on Oct. 6 at the Club at Rolling Hills.
However, Valor senior Lucas Schulte didn't know he had captured the individual state title until after he sank an eagle putt on the 18th green, which secured the team championship for Valor and made him a state champion.
Valor, which was fourth in the 5A Jefferson County League, finished with a two-round, four-player total of 452 to edge Arapahoe, which was second for the second straight season with 454 total strokes.
Regis Jesuit was third (458) while Rock Canyon came in fifth (462), Cherry Creek seventh (468) and Castle View ninth (474).
“I don't think this was a surprise,” said Byler. “I've shared with a couple other people that we played in such a difficult league this year. Jeffco has five of the top 10 teams in the state and we felt like we'd played in these situations before and we were playing better coming into the tournament than we had all year. So we believed we had an opportunity. You hope you are playing good at the right time.
“The moment Lucas walked off the 18th green, he said: `We did it.' You win an individual state title and that's your first phrase, that's the way this team is.”
Schulte bogeyed the 17th hole but hit a 320-yard drive to start his final hole of the day on the 18th and followed with an accurate 8-iron shot to the green.
“I had about 180 in,” said Schulte `I had been spinning the ball so much. I wanted to put in past the hole. I didn't know but getting over the hill and seeing it was within six feet I started shaking hard. My heart was racing. Coach was trying to calm me down.
“I honest didn't know about the team. I knew we were in a tight battle. The kid ahead of me was also on our team. I didn't know he birdied. So if he had parred, it would have been a different story. I didn't know how I set individually.”
Byler was confident about Schulte's clutch putt.
“I had a feeling he was going to hit three quality shots on that hole,” he said. “I said: `Just try to be yourself. You've been practicing this shot all year.'”
Schulte admits he wasn't special during the regular season.
“I started playing golf when I was in eighth grade and it has always been a dream of mine to win state,” he said. “I spent hours and hours working on golf. I progressed but this was the first year I was capable of winning something big.
“I didn't know if was going to come down to the last hole. I made a swing change going into regionals and I was two-under. My swing felt really good. I was super confident. It's really cool to win. The individual is good but the team is one of the special things. We were fourth in our league so nobody could see this coming except for our players.”
Other members of the Valor team were sophomore Colin Young, who chipped out from under a tree on 18 and made a birdie to give him a round of 75 and 153 total. Jack Armstrong started early and came in with a 74 (155) and Langdon Bradley had a 79 (158).
“Armstrong was the most consistent all year,” added Byler. “He posted a 74 early. Having that score in the clubhouse was a really big thing for us. It gave us a chance to be a little more aggressive and see what happens late. It wasn't a surprise. We've been playing team golf all year long.
“I'm super proud of the guys for having that team culture. Let me say this. It may have been the best high school finish I've ever seen.”
The two best rounds of the final day were from Ralston Valley's Troy Kirschner and Ryan Occhionero of Regis Jesuit who tied for third at 147. Kirschner had a 2-under-par 69 and Occhionero a 1-under 70.
Arapahoe's Graham Dzengelewski, who led most of the tournament, was 3-over par on the 16th and 17th honors but finished with a birdie for a 75 and tied him for fourth place with a 148 total.
Cherry Creek's Charlie Flaxbeard tied for seventh (151) and Nick Fallin of Rock Canyon was 11th (152).
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