Judging by their first six holes during Monday's opening round of the state championships at Yampa Valley Golf Course in Craig, no one would have thought Scott Ptach and Kaelen Gunderson would end their rounds with smiles on their faces.
But the two Steamboat Springs juniors battled through a tough start, hunkered down for the last 12 holes, and played lights-out golf down the stretch.
Gunderson shot a 4-over 74, good enough for a tie for sixth place after one round, while Ptach shot a 78.
"I don't know. I've experienced state before, and I don't think nerves were it," Ptach said about the slow start. "Maybe it was not being warmed up. I'm not too sure. I'm not sure if I was ready to hit the first tee yet."
Ptach played his first five holes in 4-over par, including a double bogey on No. 15 where he seemingly hit a good second shot that sailed just over the green. By the time Ptach reached the back nine, he finally started to find his groove. Despite three early bogies on holes 2, 3 and 4, Ptach started to pull it together.
He birdied No. 7 to shoot a 37 on the back nine.
"I hit more fairways and greens and had a lot less putts," said Ptach, who along with Gunderson started his day on the back nine.
For Gunderson, holding it together and shooting as well as he did were a feat in themselves.
Gunderson had bogeys on 12, 13 and 14 before double-bogeying No. 15. The turning point in his round, however, came on No. 16. He came up short on the par 3 and chunked his chip to just outside of 20 feet. But Gunderson knocked in the putt to save par. From that point on, he played his round at 1-under par, with chip-in birdies on holes 7 and 9.
"It always sucks to have two nines like that with a good nine and bad nine," Gunderson said. "But I'm excited for (today). I don't think I was very focused on my front nine. I was doing work on my back nine though."
Valor Christian freshman Wyndham Clark is in the lead with a 66. Justin Russell of Montrose and Brenden Beeg of D'Evelyn both shot 70, while Montezuma-Cortez's Dominique Johnson shot 71.
"I had a game plan and I just wanted to stick to it," Clark said. "It was hitting it in the fairway and then hitting it to the center of the greens because the greens are so small that if you're in the center of the green, you still have a short putt. Some went in and some didn't."
Montrose leads the race for the team total with a 221. Valor Christian is in second with 223. D'Evelyn (224) and Greeley Central (227) follow.
The second and final round continues today. Ptach is scheduled to tee off No. 1 at 9:39 a.m., with Gunderson to follow at 11 a.m.