Summer vacation is officially over - at least for the Moffat County High School boys golf team.
Practice/tryouts for the Bulldog ball strikers began Monday at the Yampa Valley Golf Course, signaling the much-anticipated beginning of the MCHS fall sports season.
Colorado high school golf - unlike the five other fall sports - begins tournament play Thursday, a full four days before football, girls volleyball, boys soccer, rodeo and cross-country are even permitted to begin practicing by the Colorado High School Activities Association.
MCHS won't start play until Monday, when the team travels to compete in back-to-back tournaments in Grand Junction. The team then will head south to compete in consecutive events in Montrose beginning Aug. 13.
"We jump right into the season," Bulldogs coach Ken Harjes said. "We're not like the other teams that need nine practices to get going. Most of these kids have been playing all summer long, so they are ready."
What's left to be decided is which - among the 15 boys who attended practice Monday - will make the top five for the varsity team.
That question should be answered Wednesday.
The team will play a two-day tournament among one another beginning today at YVGC.
Harjes said it's pretty simple: the top five finishers will earn the varsity spots.
"We are going to tee off about 6:30 in the morning and play 18 (today) and another 18 on Wednesday," Harjes said. "Then, we'll add up those scores and see who travels next week."
Returning seniors Nick Moyer, Erik Leonard and John Strahan should earn spots, but Harjes said to keep an eye out for Taylor Branstetter, who won last week's junior tournament at YVGC.
"Nick definitely has the most experience," Harjes said, "and Strahan has played all four years. But, that Branstetter kid is good. He won that junior tournament last week."
Moyer finished third in the summer-long ACE junior golf tour - played against Western Slope high school students - giving him valuable practice against some of his upcoming opponents.
"I'm looking forward to the competition," Moyer said. "There are a few things I want to do better than last year, like shooting lower scores and being more consistent, but I'm ready to go."
The high school boys 4A golf state championships are at YVGC this year, a welcomed event for Harjes, the team and golf fans in Craig.
But, does hosting the season's biggest event add extra pressure on the team?
Harjes doesn't think so.
"We are going to address the season no different than any other," he said. "I don't think the pressure of having state in town will affect these guys. Maybe once regionals rolls around, but not now."
Moyer, in his last shot at a state championship, had a slightly different opinion.
"You want to be able to at least show up to state if it's at your home," he said, "and hopefully one of us will win it."
Pressure, or no pressure, Harjes is looking forward to the season that lies ahead.
"I'm optimistic," he said. "We had 15 kids come out that all know the game of golf.
"It should be a fun year."