State golf tourney could be wide open

Challenging field features numerous individuals, teams vying for title

Jim Benton
Calli Ringsby of Cherry Creek is the defending state champion.
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Regis Jesuit is the favorite to win the Class 5A state golf championship, which will be held May 19-20 at Raccoon Creek Golf Club in Littleton, but there are several teams ready if birdies are hard to come by for the Raiders.

Cherry Creek, Arapahoe, Highlands Ranch, Rock Canyon, Legacy and Fossil Ridge are among those that are also considered title contenders.

“There's a lot of parity this year,” said Highlands Ranch coach James Barker. “There are a lot of teams that just have two really good players and two kind of OK players. Regis definitely has the edge because they have three that can line up and shoot 70, but if Regis slips up, there are a bunch of other teams that could win.”

Scores from the top three players on the four-girl teams are figured into the team scoring for each round of the two-day tournament.

Cherry Creek's Calli Ringsby will be back to defend her state title but just like the team chase, there are plenty of competitors that will contend for medalist honors.

“It helps that I won state (last year) and I know I can do it again,” said Ringsby who will play golf at Stanford next season. “I want to stay consistent the first day. You can't win the tournament the first day but you can lose it.”

Creek coach Robert Kubiak believes Ringsby has what it takes to become a two-time champion.

“Calli will be right there at the end, competing to successfully defend her title,” said Kubiak. “She hates to lose and will not go quietly. She is the toughest competitor I have ever coached. She has been there and done that. Experience is so important and she has a lot of it.”

Other golfers who should be on the leaderboard include Arapahoe senior Hannah Wood, who has been third the past two seasons, Sydney Gillespie of Regis, Dakota Ridge's Sydney Merchant, Michelle Romano of Rock Canyon and Legacy's Hankins sisters, Jennifer and Sarah.

“She's special,” Arapahoe coach Pat Wilson said referring to Wood. “There are four or five girls with state title hopes. And there is always the kid that comes out of nowhere.”

Last year it was Jenni Chun of Highlands Ranch who surprisingly finished second and she is back again this season.

Highlands Ranch senior Samantha Barker is the Falcon golfer this season that could make a run at the title. She has had a good spring and averaged in the high 73s.

“During the league season I was able to hit tons of wedges into the green,” said Barker, who has received a full ride to play golf at Grand Canyon University. “I was able to get short, easy putts. I have to work on my long iron game just to get shots close to the greens. The greens at Raccoon Creek are very undulating and pretty fast. It will be harder for lag putts to get close.

“I like to draw the ball and there are a lot of shots that require a draw. It's a matter of keeping myself in position for the final day.”

Valor Christian, led by Andrea Ballou, qualified its entire team for the Class 4A state tournament that is scheduled for May 19-20 at the County Club of Colorado in Colorado Springs.