LITTLETON — It doesn’t matter how long you have played the game or how good you are, when you step to the first tee, there are always nerves.
Fairview’s Jackson Vacek arrived at the first tee on Monday at Raccoon Creek for the Class 5A Western Regional “feeling the nerves,” he explained.
But like any player who is confident in his game, a good number on that first hole can go a long way towards calming any jitters.
Vacek made the first of his four birdies on No. 1 en route to a 2-under par 70 that was good for a two-shot victory and a trip to the state tournament in two weeks at Colorado Springs Country Club.
“It’s exciting to play going into something like this when you need to play well,” said Vacek, who won one other tournament this season at Riverdale Dunes.
Vacek was one of two local individual regional champions, as Boulder’s Grant Rogers decimated the field at the Southern Regional while leading the Panthers to the team title.
For Vacek, it was far from a perfect round of golf, as he had to scramble on several holes to make par, none more noticeable than on the par-5 No. 11.
After a wayward tee shot found the water, Vacek dropped far enough back in the fairway, played his third to a comfortable distance and then hit his approach close enough to give himself a chance to save par. He did, rolling in a 10-footer.
“I was just trying to limit the damage on 11,” he said.
He arrived at the par-3 17th tied with Douglas County’s Nick Smith and after pinpoint placement on his tee shot, Vacek drained a snaking 18-foot birdie putt that would solidify his medalist honors.
“That gave me the confidence to go try and birdie the last one, which I didn’t,” Vacek said. “But I was still happy with that one.”
Vacek will be joined in Colorado Springs by teammate Daniel Pearson who, after playing his first competitive round of golf in two weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain, fired a 3-over par 75.
“It was a little rough today and I’m still getting used to pushing off that (right) ankle,” Pearson said. “It was solid and the goal today is just to get in and I accomplished that.”
In a regional in which only the top two teams automatically qualify for state, the Knights (231) finished six shots behind the winning team from Lakewood and three shy of Doherty (228).
Monarch, the regular season Front Range League champions, will also have to settle for just two players going to state. The Coyotes had a disappointing day, finishing tied for fourth, one shot behind Fairview.
Josh Hill was the low-man for Monarch, recovering from a disastrous start — he was 3-over though his first six holes, including a double bogey at the par-3 fourth — to finish at 2-over 74.
“I could feel myself starting to shake an I just told myself to pull it back together,” Hill said. “It’s my senior year, you can’t blow up and not make it. I tried to grind it out a little bit and before I knew it the putter got hot and I started to roll a few in.”
Despite some struggles with the putter on the inward nine, that included four three-putt bogeys, Cooper Taylor also earned a spot in the 5A field with a 3-over 75.
“It’s all right, I still made it and put a good score up,” Taylor said. “Now you go to state and you try to put the pedal to the metal.”
At Wellshire Golf Club in Denver, it was all about Rogers and the Boulder Panthers.
Rogers fired a 6-under par 65 on the 6,500-yard layout, making seven birdies against just one bogey. Rogers score was more than helpful in boosting the Panthers to a 10-shot team victory as well.
Bond Bixler (75), Alec Poorman (77) and Luke Wilson (84) will all have a chance to go to state.
“This is when it counts, right?” Boulder coach Rick Uhlir said. “Grant shoots 65 and puts the team on his back and the other guys did real well too. They really liked the course and I know Bond, my No. 3 player, he came down here and it just suited his eye. He played well in the practice rounds here and carried it through to today.”
Boulder, which played in an invitational tournament down at the state venue in August, will head to the Springs riding a wave of momentum.
“They are all very enthusiastic about the chance for sure,” Uhlir said.
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Class 5A Western Regional
At Raccoon Creek, par 72
Team scores (top 2 teams automatically qualify for state) — Lakewood 225, Doherty 228, Fairview 231, Douglas County 232, Monarch 232, Mountain Vista 234, Dakota Ridge 239, Brighton 243, Grandview 244, Greeley West 248, Liberty 260, Horizon 276, Gateway 327.
Top individuals (state qualifiers) — 1. Jackson Vacek, Fairview, 70; T2. Griffin Barela, Lakewood, 72; T2. Nick Smith, Douglas Co., 72; T2. Paul Fox, Dakota Ridge 72; T5. Chris Rapp, Mountain Vista, 74; T5. Josh Hill, Monarch 74; T7. Chadd Vasquez, Doherty 75; T7. Cooper Taylor, Monarch 75; T7. Daniel Pearson, Fairview 75; T7. JJ Amato, Lakewood, 75; T11. Chance Vasquez, Doherty, 76; T11. Ryan Kropp, Brighton, 76; T13. Anthony Augelli, Doherty, 77; T13. Eric Lovell, Greeley West, 77; T15. Brett Startz, Douglas Co., 78; T15. Jack Castiglia, Lakewood, 78; T15. Kevin Liao, Lakewood, 78; T18. Austin Hardman, Mountain Vista, 79; T18. Jordan Barrett, Doherty, 79; 20. Josh Turner, Liberty, 80; * T21. Mason Jowsey, Grandview, 81.
Other Fairview results — T37. Andrew Perry 86; T37. Joe Douglas, 86.
Other Monarch results — T25. Ethan Alexander 83; T29. Buck Guthrie 84.
* – denotes won in a playoff
Class 5A Southern Regional
At Wellshire Golf Club, par 71
Team scores (top 2 teams automatically qualify for state) — Boulder 217, Cherokee Trail 227, Grand Junction 228, Ralston Valley 231, Rock Canyon 231, Fossil Ridge 233, Pine Creek 245, Pomona 246, Smoky Hill 247, Rocky Mountain 250, Castle View 257, Fountain-Ft. Carson 283, Northglenn 284.
Top individuals (state qualifiers) — 1. Grant Rogers, Boulder, 65; 2. Donny Kinnaman, Grand Junction, 71; 3. Grant Olinger, Pomona, 72; T4. Josh Caridi, Fossil Ridge, 73; T4. Roy Carlsen, Ralston Valley, 73; T4. Ryan Zetwick, Rock Canyon, 73; 7. Bradley Scalia, Cherokee Trail, 74; 8. Bond Bixler, Boulder, 75; T9. Ji Jang, Cherokee Trail, 76; T9. Trevor Olkowski, Grand Junction, 76; T11. Alec Poorman, Boulder, 77; T11. Zach Golfsmith, Cherokee Trail, 77; T13. Breland Holifield, Pine Creek, 78; T13. Noah Brownell, Fossil Ridge, 78; T13. Zach Gomez, Ralston Valley, 78; T16. Josh Pusar, Rock Canyon, 79; T16. Nick Caldwell, Rock Canyon 79; T16. Paul Cleveland, Smoky Hill, 79; T19. * one player (either Cameron Nagel, Rocky Mountain; Kyle Colen, Smoky Hill; or Nick Medina, Ralston Valley will earn the final individual spot) 80.
Other Boulder result — 29. Luke Wilson 84.