LONGMONT — With the kind of senior talent the Silver Creek boys golf team brought to the table last season, few could have predicted freshman Jackson Solem to win the Northern League season title.
Golf always seems to have surprises in store for those who dare to play.
As a sophomore in 2014, however, Solem’s performance isn’t surprising anyone. He anticipated this and prepared himself accordingly for the added expectation. With the state tournament looming at the end of September, Solem’s preparation has him confidently cruising through his second prep season.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of work and this year it’s starting to pay off,” said Solem, who attends Longmont Christian. “The deciding factor that has helped me is my determination. I know that I can start off and make a couple bogeys and that I’ll be able to bounce back. I had that a little bit last year but this year I feel like my mental game is far better.
“All of the kids at the highest level can hit the shots but it’s who’s strongest between the ears that wins the tournaments.”
The Raptors have played eight tournaments this season and Solem has won all of them. His scoring average in league competition is 70.8. His overall scoring average is 69.75. His lowest round this season was an eight-under-par 63 at Eaton Country Club.
After playing in the Calloway Junior World Golf Championships the summer before his freshman season, Solem qualified for the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships this summer. Competing against some of the top international players around, Solem placed ninth in the boys 14-15 division.
“That really gave me a lot of confidence,” Solem said. “That’s the biggest tournament that I play all year. Having a good finish helped me realize that I can hang with those guys at the highest level and that helped me coming into the high school season.”
Jackson has also been taking lessons with head professional Keith Martin at Twin Peaks and is a member at Fox Hill Country Club in Longmont. With the improvements he has made, Solem now sees himself as a legitimate contender for a state title.
More importantly, Solem now sees himself as the clear leader on a Raptors team that graduated Division-I college players in Todd Millard and Andrew Howe last season.
“Last year I was just kind of there behind Todd and Andrew and trying to keep up with them,” Solem said. “This year, I’ve recognized myself as the leader of the team. I feel like I need to set an example not just in the way that I play but in the way that I act.”
For first-year head coach Ryan Williams, Solem has set exactly the example he had hoped to see out of the sophomore.
“It’s his determination, by far,” Williams said. “He’s extremely level-headed. When he comes to the course, he’s always on the right page. He’s thinking one shot at a time, not what he shot yesterday and what he’s going to shoot today. He’s been such a strong leader for the rest of the team and it makes them want to chase after him, in a sense. They see his work ethic and they want to be as good as him.”
The final Northern League tournament is Monday at Fox Hill Country Club. The 4A state tournament will take place on Sept. 29-30 at Walking Stick Golf Course in Pueblo.
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