FIRESTONE — Erin Sargent understands how to navigate a course. But even the Silver Creek senior, the third-place finisher at the Class 4A state tournament a season ago, is prone to misplayed holes on occasion.
"No. 1 was definitely rough," Sargent said of the first hole Monday at the Saddleback Golf Club in Firestone, site of the 4A Northern Regional. "It took me four shots just to get onto the green, which is not a very common occurrence for me. I think it was those first hole nerves and the good thing was that after that I was really able to recover."
For Sargent, a score of six on the opening par 4 was the only real blemish during a superb round. In fact, she carded a two-over 74 to claim the Northern Regional title by eight strokes over Berthoud's Molli Boruff. A breakdown of the veteran's scorecard, 11 pars and 3 birdies, reveals an aptness for making sound decisions.
"She came out and played here a few times, which always helps," Silver Creek coach Meredith Nelson said. "She takes the driver out of play when she knows it can get her in trouble and she just makes a lot of smart decisions in that regard. Keeping your cool when things don't go your way always helps."
The University of Wyoming recruit is two-for-two in qualifying for the state tournament for a Silver Creek program in their second season of existence.
"It's great to have Silver Creek on my shirt, have it on my bag, and really get to represent my school well with a regional win," Sargent said with a wide smile. "It definitely gives me a lot of confidence going into state. I know I can go lower than I did today, but it gives me a lot of confidence that I can win."
After placing sixth as a team at the regional tournament a season ago, the Raptors jumped up to fourth this time around behind Sargent, Kendra Green, Taylor Sandal and Amelia Haines. Windsor won with a combined score of 279, and Northridge (279) and Niwot (281) were just slightly ahead of SCHS (285).
The Wizards automatically qualified as a team, but six area players qualified from the 17 remaining individual positions out of the regional — the Skyline sister tandem of Grace and Audrey Gunlikson, Niwot's Claire McPeak and Keena Strope, and Frederick's Erin Baum all sealing bids with scores of 94 or under.
For Baum, mostly everything is new. After playing as a freshman at Wylie East High School in Wylie, Texas, Baum's mother got a new job, moving them to Colorado. For a Warriors' program in their initial season, the sophomore finished in a tie for 11th after carding a 94. In Frederick's first-ever regional tournament, Baum did have one advantage over her competitors as Saddleback is the team's home course.
"It helped a lot, because when you've played it so many times you know where to put the ball and the only things that are different are the greens," she said. "You know the layout of the course and it just makes it easier."
Frederick finished a very respectable 10th as a team.
Skyline freshman Audrey Gunlikson, described by her coach as more of a long-ball hitter compared to the precision and methodical play of her sister Grace, tied for eighth at 92.
"Audrey, we were confident she would get in but she had to play one of her better rounds of the year," Skyline coach Cory Hoople said. "She turned around and did that. With her sister Grace, we were nearly 100 percent sure she would get in. She didn't perform to what she was happy with, but even as she was playing and was worried, I wasn't worried."
For the older Gunlikson, looking for a second straight bid to the state tournament, overcoming a challenging day to represent the Falcons at state again is something she can live with. She also shot a 94.
"Going to state this year, it means a lot to me because I barely made it," the junior said. "I did not play well today, so I was really down on myself. Being able to qualify means a lot."
McPeak (91) and Strope (92) will be Niwot's representatives at the 4A state tournament in Pueblo (May 23-24). McPeak tied for 31st at state last season, while Strope sealed a bid to state for the first time. Rosie Setter came within one stroke of forcing a playoff for the final bid with a score of 98 for another strong Cougar group.
Jordan Couper led Erie in carding a 107, while Centaurus was led by Katie Strohl's 117.
Class 4A Northern Regional
At Saddleback G.C.
Team scores — Windsor 279, Northridge 279, Niwot 281, Silver Creek 285, Skyline 288, Berthoud 292, Fort Morgan 313, Thompson Valley 318, Wray 326, Frederick 328, Mountain View 333, Estes Park 336, Erie 339, Resurrection Christian 346, Strasburg 356, Holyoke 362, Centaurus 367.
Top individuals — 1. Erin Sargent, Silver Creek, 74; 2. Molli Boruff, Berthoud, 82; 3. Aryn McLaughlin, Thompson Valley, 86; 4. Caitlyn Olson, Northridge, 89; 5. Bailey Reed, Wray, 90; T6. Claire McPeak, Niwot, 91; T6. Sarah Johnson, Windsor, 91; T8. Audrey Gunlikson, Skyline, 92; T8. Keena Strope, 92; 10. Jessica Zapf, Windsor, 93.
Centaurus results — Katie Strohl 117, Brie Nickal 119, Nychelle Jones 131, Jessie Huth 131.
Erie results — Jordan Couper 107, Peyton Toledo 110, Sophie Arnold 122, Shayla Hoople 148.
Frederick results — Erin Baum 94, Alix Lowry 113, Cassie Palmer 121, Payton Wallace 130.
Other Niwot results — Rosie Setter 98, Mya Ostrom 128.
Other Silver Creek results — Kendra Green 102, Taylor Sandal 109, Amelia Haines 115.
Other Skyline results — Grace Gunlikson 94, Laci Williams 102, Lexi Ekern 125.