CARBONDALE - Niwot's Jack Hoover was not having a good day. Sitting at 14-over, he had a 60-foot putt on 18 and was just looking to get off the course.
His birdie putt traveled the length of the green and had just enough pace to rattle into the cup, giving him his second birdie of the day.
But what a way to end his first day of the Class 4A state golf tournament.
"That was fun," he said with a big smile on his face as he walked off the green.
Now it's time for him and the rest of the Cougars to get to work. Jake Butler had the best day for the team, shooting a six-over par 78 Monday at River Valley Ranch. At 11 strokes back of Discovery Canyon's Luke Trujillo, the individual title may be very well out of reach.
The Thunder also hold the team lead at 4-under, 13 strokes better than second place Montrose. The Cougars sit at 27-over as a team, but feel like they have a spark now that can help thrust them up the leaderboard.
"It'll keep me calm tonight," Hoover said of his birdie putt on 18. "It'll make starting tomorrow a little bit easier and it got me to where I wanted to be today."
Most of the attention Monday was directed at defending champion Jackson Solem from Silver Creek. The senior started his round with back-to-back birides, but was unable to to do any better than 2-under.
A bogey on 13 brought him back to 1-under and with pars the rest of the way out, he ended the day shooting 70.
"I did a lot of good things today," Solem said. " I missed a couple of putts, but I have a number in my head of where I need to get to (Tuesday) and just try to go out there and get off to a hot start."
This is not an unfamiliar feeling for Solem. Heading into day two of last year's tournament, he sat three stroke behind Valor Christian's Philip Lee and came out to shoot a 67 to win the individual crown.
Now he is tasked with the same dilemma, albeit a sits back one more stroke than he did a year ago.
"But I'm definitely a little bit better, so we'll see," he said.
And he says that with confidence. Perhaps the greatest weapon at his disposal is the feeling of winning a state championship.
Of the 83 players in the field, he is the only one that can claim a victory as this very tournament.
"It makes me a little more comfortable for sure," Solem said. "I'm the only person here who knows what it's like. So that's a little encouraging."
With Garrett Stansel shooting an 80, T.J. Shehee shooting an 82 and Dietrich Berning shooting an 84, the Raptors sit at 17 over as a team, putting them in fifth place.
Erie's Caleb Humble sits at 10-over which has him tied for 47th place.
Class 4A state tournament, Day 1
At River Valley Ranch, Carbondale
Team scores — Discovery Canyon 212, Montrose 225, Evergreen 231, Valor Christian 232, Silver Creek 233, Palmer Ridge 237, Niwot 243, Golden 245, Falcon 248, Pueblo County 251, Mullen 253, Steamboat Springs 253, Pueblo West 260
Top individuals — 1. Trujillo, Discovery Canyon, 67; 2. Krantz, Windsor, 70, T3. Henricks, Air Academy, 71; T3. Pasvogel, Discovery Canyon, 71; T3. Stangebye, Montrose, 71; T3. Solem, Silver Creek, 71; 7. Severin, Roosevelt, 72; 8. Mihavetz, Montrose, 73; T9. Blackburn, Discovery Canyon, 74; T9. Edwards, Thompson Valley, 74; T9. Jones, Eagle Valey, 74; T9. Casias, Pueblo South, 74.
Other local results — Butler, Niwot, 78; Stansel, Silver Creek, 80; Kuesel, Niwot 80; Humble, Erie, 82; Shehee, Silver Creek, 82; Berning, Silver Creek, 84; Hoover, Niwot, 85; Elliot, Niwot, 86.