BOULDER — If he were unable to defend his state title this fall, Davis Long said early in the season that he would be happy as long as his 2018 campaign ended with him getting to enjoy another final day in contention.
After a rough opening round on Monday made a successful title defense a slim possibility for Long, he rebounded in Tuesday's second round of the Class 3A boys golf state championships at Boulder Country Club in order to make this secondary goal a reality. Entering Day 2 in a tie for eighth, Long carded an even-par 70 to finish the tournament at 3-over and place third overall.
Within a few strokes of various leaders throughout the round, Long certainly earned the thrill of contending he had hoped for.
"Obviously, I didn't get it done and I wanted to get it done," Long said. "But I don't think that's necessarily what it's all about. I just wanted to be in contention and it was fun out there today to be in it. I wish I could have made a couple putts out there today but that's golf. I know they're not all going to drop. I got off to a good start and just couldn't finish it out in the end. But overall it was a great, positive day."
Long got off to a good start indeed.
Right out of the gate, the Peak to Peak junior birdied both the par-4 first and the par-5 second holes. He made the turn at 1-under par for the round and 2-over for the tournament. Long made par every hole but the par-4 14th, which he bogeyed, on the back nine. While many of the golfers who opened the day ahead of him struggled, Long's steady second round was enough for him to creep up the leaderboard and into the top three.
While Long crept up the leaderboard, Dawson senior Billy Howenstein climbed rapidly.
Starting the day in a tie for 18th place a 6-over, the final round of his prep career ended with Howenstein turning in a 1-under 69 and finishing in a tie for sixth place. His torrid ascent began when Howenstein eagled the par-5 second.
"I didn't perform the way I wanted yesterday but it was really important to me that I finish my high school golf career on a strong note," Howenstein said. "I was a little angry because I missed a short birdie putt on the first hole so on the second hole, I came back and took a shot at the green. There's no reason to lay up on a day like this.
"Then I had a 20-footer down the hill. I started walking it in right away. I just knew it was in. That was really exciting and it gave me a nice boost of energy and confidence to get the day going. This is my home course and I've never eagled that hole so that was really fun too."
Howenstein tied Holy Family's Jacob Mason, who moved up from 10th place and into sixth place on Tuesday on the strength of an up-and-down 71 that saw him make five birdies but also shoot bogey or worse on five holes. With Mason leading the way, the Tigers also finished third in the team scoring competition.
While Long, Howenstein and Mason made their Day 2 surges, there was a five-way tie for the lead at even-par midway through Tuesday's second round. That tie included eventual champion Jackson Klutznick from Kent Denver, Eaton's Peter Grossenbacher, who began the day in the lead at 5-under, Telluride's Carlo Pine, Aspen's Jack Pevny and Prospect Ridge junior Walker Franklin.
Beginning the day in fifth place after an opening-round 71, Franklin remained either tied or with one stroke of the lead, and even led briefly, throughout most of the back nine. The Prospect Ridge junior, who finished in a tie for runner-up to Long at state last year, fell out of the chase when he triple-bogeyed No. 16 and then bogeyed No. 17. He finished in a tie for fourth place with Aspen's Jack Pevny at 4-over for the tournament.
While none of them could complete their runs at a state title in 2018, Long, Mason and Franklin are all juniors and will be back to try again next fall.
"It's always good momentum to come close and to know that you have one more shot at it," Long said. "I'm going to work super hard this summer to get better and I'm sure they all will too. It's cool because it's obviously harder but that's better because it keeps you motivated. I'm good friends with Walker and it's cool to have a good relationship with those guys but at the same time want to beat them.
"It's great to have good golf right in your area and hopefully this time next year, we're talking about one of us winning."
Class 3A boys golf state championships
At Boulder Country Club, par 70
Team scores — Aspen 434, Kent Denver 453, Holy Family 457, Eaton 472, The Classical Academy 476, Basalt 484, Sterling 486, Frontier Academy 488, Colorado Academy 488, Resurrection Christian 502, La Junta 513, Pagosa Springs 524, Strasburg 526, Gunnison 535.
Top individuals — 1. Jackson Klutznick, Kent Denver, 67-72-139; 2. Jack Hughes, Aspen, 72-70-142; 3. Davis Long, Peak to Peak, 73-70-143; t4. Jack Pevny 68-76-144; t4. Walker Franklin, Prospect Ridge, 71-73-144; t6. Jacob Mason, Holy Family, 74-71-145; t6. Billy Howenstein, Dawson, 76-69-145; t8. Jeffrey Zhou, Kent Denver, 75-71-146; t8. Liam O'Halloran, The Classical Academy, 72-74-146; t10. Westin Pals, Lutheran, 75-72-147; t10. Carlo Pine, Telluride, 70-77-147; t10. Peter Grossenbacher, Eaton, 65-82-147.
Other Holy Family results — t16. Garrett Green 75-81-156; t23. Jackson Grace 76-83-159; t37. Alex Mumm 85-80-165.
Other Peak to Peak results — t27. Suchit Sharma 80-81-161.