For the longest time, Jackson Solem could not get his mind past the two-day tournament he had to end last year's high school golf season. Using it as motivation for this year, however, the Silver Creek junior made his 2015 state tournament an unforgettable one.
After winning every tournament his sophomore season leading up to regionals, Solem was considered in the mix for the Class 4A state championship as an individual. But he finished a disappointing 12th.
"I kind of had a bad taste in my mouth after my sophomore year," he said this week. "I realized then that all the little things make the difference."
The top-ranked golfer for the Class of 2017 in Colorado's junior circuit, Solem went to work this summer to improve every little aspect of his game, hoping it would all come together in time for the biggest tournament of the year.
It paid off in gold, and for his consistency throughout the season leading up to a Class 4A state title, Solem has earned the 2015 BoCoPreps.com player of the year honor.
"It was a confidence thing, and I felt like if I played like I had all year I'd have a chance to win (state)," said Solem, who attends Longmont Christian. "Overall, my chipping and putting got a lot better this year. But my ball striking really came into its own. I made some swing changes to eliminate mistakes and penalties.
"Last year I was paying attention a lot more to winning tournaments. This year, it was more about working toward doing the right things and trying to put it all together for state."
Solem finished first in the Northern League in scoring average (71), and once again was a medalist more often than not in league tournaments. When it came to the Northern Regional tournament at Quail Dunes, a 73 was good enough to win on a tough day (just four others shot below 79 that day).
He knew for a long time that the Class 4A state tournament was going to be played at Longmont's Fox Hill, and that gave him a mental advantage that he seemed to be able to use. He was the only player under par for the tournament, carding a two-day 139 to beat Valor Christian's Coby Welch by a single stroke.
"I think it was a confidence boost knowing all the little nuances of the course, and it was a little pick-me-up to have friends and family watching and supporting me," Solem said, admitting he's shot a 64 at Fox Hill before. "But it's still a golf tournament that you have to play well."
The entire Silver Creek team played well, finishing second to Valor, and that was another proud moment for Solem.
"I'm proud that we won conference and regionals for the eighth straight year, and took second at state," he said. "We were all working together to get that one big goal at the end."