MCHS golfers prepare for state tournament |

MCHS golfers prepare for state tournament

Joshua Gordon

The Moffat County High School girls varsity golf team poses Wednesday at the Yampa Valley Golf Course. Pictured are, back row, from left, Callie Papoulas, coach Ann Marie Roberts and Samantha Fox, and, front row, from left, Nike Cleverly, Caitlin Harjes and Jessica Matthews. Papoulas, Fox and Cleverly will play in the 4A state tournament Monday and Tuesday in Pueblo.

Nike Cleverly said the "biggest emotional roller coaster of her life" happened in a 24-hour period last week.

Cleverly, a Moffat County High School senior, seemed destined to end her high school golfing career on a low note after losing a playoff for the final state tournament spot May 10 in Parachute.

"I was so upset when I didn't qualify for the state tournament," she said Wednesday. "It took me forever to just accept it."

Because she lost the playoff, Cleverly served as the first alternate if the tournament needed another player.

On May 11, about 24 hours after finding out her season was likely over, Cleverly said MCHS athletic director Richard Wildenhaus told her the good news.

"When Rich told me I was going to get to play at state, I didn't believe him," she said. "Everyone told me at the regional tournament I would make it in, but I was first alternate my freshman year and did make it in then. I didn't play well at regionals, but now I have another chance."

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Cleverly will join fellow senior Callie Papoulas and junior Samantha Fox, who both qualified individually at the regional tournament, for Monday and Tuesday's 4A state golf tournament at Elmwood Golf Course, 3900 Thatcher Ave., Pueblo.

With her second chance, Cleverly said she wants to end her high school career right.

"The cards fell last week and it just wasn't in them for me to go to state," she said. "Now that I have this chance, I want to go out with a bang."

Papoulas, who tied for second at the regional tournament with a 97, was almost in the same boat at Cleverly.

On the front nine, Papoulas shot a 53 and couldn't find the fairway on her drives.

"I was so upset after the front 9 I almost cried on the course," she said. "I made it to the state tournament last year as a junior and I really wanted it to happen again my senior year."

Papoulas shot a 44 on the back 9 and now that she is headed to state, she said she is excited about the level of competition.

"The competition at the state tournament is really intense," she said. "It is a lot different than playing on our home course. We get to play some of the best players in Colorado and get to meet a lot of new people."

This season, Papoulas and Cleverly were the only two returning seniors on the five-girl team.

Papoulas, however, said golf isn't a sport where team leadership is a "big thing."

"On our team, it didn't matter if you were a freshman or a senior," she said. "It mattered how you played, so we were all kind of equals."

Fox will be playing in her first state tournament.

Last season, she lost a playoff for the fourth and final spot on the Bulldogs' regional team.

Cleverly and Papoulas, along with Heather Nicholson and Makayla Camilletti, won the tournament and qualified for the state as a team.

"To come back this year and qualify individually is awesome," she said. "I feel I accomplished a lot and I improved on my driving and putting a lot."

The three girls, along with coach Ann Marie Roberts, will head to Pueblo on Saturday night. None of the three have played Elmwood before, so on Sunday, the team will play a practice round.

"We know the state course is a lot longer," Papoulas said. "We have been playing from the blue tees on our course to make it harder and longer."

Cleverly said during the practice round, she will take good notes and jot down any possible shot that could be taken.

For Fox, getting to know the course comes down to being friendly with the competition.

"When we start play (Monday), I try to find a girl who has played the course before and talk to her about it," she said. "I want to know how the hole is laid out and what kind of hazards to expect."

Each of the 86 players at the tournament will play 18 holes on both Monday and Tuesday, with the winners being the top 10 golfers with the lowest combined score.

There will be 10 teams vying for the team award, including the Bulldogs.

While Papoulas hopes to shoot below 90 and Fox below 100, Cleverly said she wants to avoid a mistake that plagued her in last year's state tournament.

An error on the scorecard by her partner resulted in Cleverly being disqualified after the first day.

"My first goal is to not get disqualified because I was upset when it happened last year," she said. "But, I also want to shoot a season best, so anything under 92. Ann Marie teaches us the basics in practice, but when you get out on the course, you get nervous. I have to know that I can make any shot."

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If you go…

What: Moffat County High School girls varsity golf at 4A state tournament

When: 8:30 a.m. Monday and 8:30 a.m. Tuesday

Where: Elmwood Golf Course, 3900 Thatcher Ave., Pueblo

— Admission is free

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