Will Kates, a sophomore at Arapahoe, surprised the rest of the top high school boys golfers in the state by winning the State High School Boys Golf Championship, held Oct. 7-8 at Pinehurst Country Club in Denver.
Kates opened with a round of 71 and then solved the tricky greens and tough pin placements at the tree-lined Pinehurst course with a 4-under-par 66 during the final round on Oct. 8 to win the individual state title by six strokes.
He was one shot off the lead after the first round but quickly took the lead and never looked back.
“I just wanted to go out and play a solid round of golf,” said Kates. “I didn't want to do anything crazy. I knew if I could shoot like low 70s, I would have a good chance of winning. There were a couple greens that were a little trickier than yesterday, but they were about the same, a difficult mix.
“I played really good, I made a lot of putts. I didn't hit the ball any better than normal but I hit my wedges pretty good and my putting was amazing. I had a pretty good season but nothing like this. I'm real excited. It feels amazing to be a state champion.”
Kates and the final round's second lowest scored of 71 by Matthew Wilkinson help Arapahoe rallied to finish as the state team runner-up, three strokes behind state champion Fairview. Max Zadvorny and Graham Dzengelewski each had a score of 77 on the final day in which only the three lowest scores are included for the team scoring.
“Last year, he was on the bottom half of our team,” said Arapahoe coach Harry Buckner, referring to Kates. “ So he's come a long way from last year. These are the best players in the state and he comes out and beats them by that many strokes. He played real steady all year as our No. 2 guy but he had never gone this (low).”
Buckner said Kates' putting separated him from the other golfers in the field. At one stage during the final round, Kates had seven straight one-putt greens.
“He's dedicated with very even temperament and nothing can shake him,” added the coach. “He had a couple tough shots during the final round. There was one that he had slap a shot over a tree. He just said, coach `I'm going over the tree'. He went over the tree, sunk the putt and parred the hole. Another situation where he got into some trouble and the same thing, He got it up on the green and knocked the putt in, and parred that hole.
“The difference in his game he was making putts He probably made seven or eight 10 foot putts. He make one snake that had a 10-foot break in it. He made some great putts. I told you before, it's all chipping and putting. If he wasn't on the green, he was chipping and one putting. And when he was on the green, he had a few one putts."
Highlands Ranch senior Tarek Salem, who tied for sixth place a year ago, finished second on the individual leaderboard with scores of 71 and 72 for a 143 total. Lakewood junior Ryan Liao, fourth last season, tied for third with back-to-back rounds of 72 for a 144 two-round total.
Wilkinson of Arapahoe was 10th and Charlie Flaxbeard of Cherry Creek tied for 11th at 149.
Besides Fairview (437) and Arapahoe (440) in the team standings, defending state champion Fossil Ridge was third (441), Highlands Ranch fourth (451), Regis Jesuit fifth (455), Rock Canyon seventh (469) and Valor Christian eighth (470).
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