Golf is a game of decorum and fair-play. Their are no officials to call penalties and throw flags. The players are expected to conduct themselves with dignity and honesty and to follow the rules like ladies and gentlemen.
Mother Nature and Lady Luck, however, are sometimes no ladies on the links. Such was the case for Bulldogs Jerrod Aragon and C.J. Rugh at the state championship golf tournament in Carbondale on Monday and Tuesday.
"The course played real tough," said Moffat County High School head golf coach Ken Harjes. "The scores were all pretty high."
Aragon struggled with the greens both days, and shot a 92 on the first day of the two-day tournament to essentially fall out of the running.
"The greens were really tough super fast," Aragon said. "If they're fast like that, and also very big, you can be on the green, but have no chance of making your putt. You have to leave it within five feet of the hole."
Not many golfers were doing that, and the wind was so strong at times on the second day, that it was actually affecting the line of putts on the fast greens.
Rugh started out strong on the first day, and birdied 16 to put himself in position for a strong finish. The seventeenth hole was where luck and nature decided to get nasty, though, and Rugh took and 11 on the par-5 hole. He birdied 18 to finish with plus-13 85 for the day. Had he not taken on six extra strokes on 17, he'd have finished around a 79 and just eight strokes off the lead. Instead, he had a fairly deep hole to dig out of on the final day, but he was still in the running.
Pressure was a key factor for both players, who were in their first state tournament.
"On the way home they both said, 'Coach, there was no way you could have prepared anyone for that first shot,'" Harjes said.
"It was intense," Rugh said of the pressure at the tournament. "That was the most nervous I've ever been. I didn't think it was going to be that bad."
"That first shot is just completely different than any other tournament I've ever been in," said Aragon of the difficult first tee and the intensified atmosphere. "You've got to hit over the water and you've got out of bounds left and a hazard right. Then there's people clapping for you. It's like a pro tournament."
If all that pressure wasn't enough, lady luck took a hand on Rugh's opening tee shot on day two. He lifted the ball right to stay in bounds, but the ball caught a small manhole cover and took a terrible bounce away from the fairway. Things went downhill from there, and Rugh took an eight on the first hole to start his day four over. Harjes felt the pressure of the bad start had to be great.
"I think in number one, when he took that eight, he still had the 11 from the day before on his mind. It's tough to start that way."
With the entire course in front of him, Rugh still had a chance to finish strong, though.
He parred the second hole but then dropped a stroke on each of the next two to climb to six over by the time he hit the fifth tee. A lot of people might have given up at that point, but Harjes said his players have no quit in them.
Rugh kept smiling all day, and he stepped up to the fifth tee box and hit a solid drive down the into nice position on the fairway of the par five hole. Things began to look bad again when he found bunker with his second shot, but a tremendous out from the trap went right at the flag and actually backed up three feet on the fast green to put in position for a short birdie putt which he made easily. Rugh seemed to find his groove after that, and he finished the front nine with three more pars and a birdie on nine to hold at four over for the day.
Things backed up at the tenth tee, and a twenty minute wait was enough to cool Rugh's heels.
With a double bogey on 10, a bogey on 11 and a triple on 12, Rugh fell six more strokes off the pace, and a stiff wind and speedy greens made sure he wouldn't come back. Rugh did hit a tremendous tee shot on the par-three sixteenth and birdied that hole with a long putt. He also hit a 30-foot putt on 18 for a bogey, but his 48 on the back nine left him with an 88 on the second day, and a finish in the middle of the pack.
Aragon shot 92 both days, and just never figured out the greens according to Harjes.
"I'm really proud of the way they handled themselves," Harjes said. "Anyone who saw them play out there had to think, 'Hey, they've got some good kids up there in Moffat County."
Both players were happy to have the experience, and only wish they'd made the state tournament in their junior years so the pressure wouldn't have been so overwhelming this year.
Trevor Owens from Alexander Dawson High School won the tournament by shooting a 76 and a 71 on the tough championship course at River Valley Ranch.