The Boulder boys golf team placed sixth as a team at the Class 5A state championships last season but graduated all four players who competed in the final tournament of the 2019 season.
So, the Panthers will have a completely new lineup this year. They’ll also have a new coach. On top of that, they just entered the fall season under completely unfamiliar circumstances that have been dictated by an unprecedented global environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just about everything will be different.
But with change comes opportunity, and that’s how Boulder is approaching the 2020 fall campaign.
“I think the team actually looks pretty good,” Panthers senior Jack Dooley said. “Obviously, I want to go to state. Last year, I didn’t even make regionals because I was the fifth guy. We’re going to just have to come together as a team, the older guys (down) to the freshmen. That’s how we’ll have a good year all around.”
Without presumptive No. 2 golfer Jaden Park, a senior who is out for a short time with a sprained ankle, the Panthers placed 13th out of 15 teams in their season opener, the DPS Invitational at Wellshire Golf Course on Thursday. There’s certainly room for growth but there isn’t, however, time for the Panthers to wait around on young players to cut their teeth at the junior varsity level.
Along with upperclassmen like senior Sam Zis and junior Ethan Reich, underclassmen like sophomore Luke Blankinship and freshman Doug Holleman will be competing for spots on the varsity tournament team throughout the season. Holleman in particular will be thrown into the fire as a freshman capable of shooting in the mid to low 80’s, and he was the team’s second-best finisher in his high school golf debut.
“It was fun,” Holleman said. “I didn’t play that well but I hit some good shots but I missed a lot of short putts. I think it’ll be fun the next few years. I’m excited to have something to work towards like the tournaments and stuff.”
The Panthers aren’t by any means the only team with plenty of new golfers having to step up. In their own league, the Front Range League, the defending 5A state champion Fairview Knights also enter 2020 having graduated their entire lineup from last year’s state championships. Like athletes in other sports but perhaps not as limited by coronavirus-imposed social distancing guidelines, the Panthers aren’t the only golfers who have had an interesting time simply preparing for the season.
“It’s been tough, for sure,” Dooley said. “A lot of the courses have been closed. The putting has been tough because there’s just the little Styrofoam noodle things in the holes so you have to hit it center cup or it’s not going to go in. But we’re all in the same boat so we’ll just keep working on it.”
The 2020 boys golf season was in doubt for some time and things will definitely have a different feel this time around, for the Panthers and everyone else. But first-year head coach Russell Selnau said that whatever challenges the Panthers face this fall, they’re at least grateful that they’ve been given a chance to take them on.
“With the uncertainty surrounding the golf season over the summer, I am most excited that our seniors will have a full season to compete,” Selnau said. “It was heartbreaking as an assistant coach for our girls team last spring to see their season end only days after the start of their season. I am just excited we are able to play, compete, and most importantly, share some long overdue smiles with one another.”