Down by two shots with three holes to go, Thayer Plewe stood over his golf ball off the 16th fairway and knew he had a decision to make.
Go for the green and risk hitting into the water hazard or lay up knowing the state championship would likely evade him. He went for it.
Plewe had a brutal lie in the rough with the ball sitting down. He grabbed his 5-iron and looked to reach the 529-yard par-5 16th under regulation. But he wasn’t able to strike his ball clean, and he ended up in the water. He made bogey. Kent Denver’s Jeffrey Zhou, who was also in the final group, suffered the same fate.
Meanwhile, tournament leader Nic Pevny of Aspen was able to reach the green in two, and he left himself only 10 feet for eagle. His putt was short, but he tapped in for birdie for a two-shot swing. Suddenly, Pevny had a four-shot lead with two holes to play.
Pevny would bogey 18 while Plewe made par, but it would be a comfortable three-shot win for the junior from Aspen at the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 3A State Golf Championships played at Dos Rios Golf Club in Gunnison. Pevny shot rounds of 2-under 69 and even-par 71 to beat Plewe, the sophomore out of Montezuma-Cortez.
“Thayer played some great golf,” Montezuma-Cortez head coach, and Plewe’s father, Todd Plewe said. “Down by two on the par-5 16th hole, he had a bad lie but he had to go for it. It’s a 50-50 shot. You don’t go to state not to try to win. He went for it and hit it in the water. I’m proud of him because he tried. He gave everything. He had to do it.”
Plewe placed 13th at the state tournament a year ago as a freshman. He trailed Pevny by one shot after his first-round 70 on Monday. Plewe shot 1 under on the front-nine Tuesday, but he wasn’t making up ground on Pevny, who went 3 under on the front with an eagle on the par-5 ninth. Plewe knew he was going to have to press on the final nine holes, including on the 16th, the last true scoring opportunity.
“I was playing well, but Nic was playing well, too,” Plewe said. “When the guy in front of you is playing well, sometimes you have to go do something a little bit risky. I knew it wasn’t the best probability shot. I was pretty deep in the rough, but I had to go for it. I knew it had to be good, but it wasn’t.”
Plewe finished four shots ahead of Vail Christian’s Connor Downey to take second place. Tayleb Schaefer of Sterling and Luke Calvin of St. Mary’s tied for fourth, eight shots behind Pevny. Zhou would make a 10 on his final hole to fall from a tie for second to eighth.
For Plewe, Tuesday’s result was further validation of his hard work during the summer when it wasn’t clear if there would even be a high school season this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He still won six tournaments during the shortened fall season.
“I feel good about it. I really wanted to play a lot better than I did last year when I knew I left a lot on the course,” he said. “I had to work at it this year to get where I am. You’re not always going to win them, but it’s the way you act when you don’t win that’s the biggest thing. Sometimes you play well both days and you still don’t win, but you just have to learn from them.”
Plewe said he had a poor start to his summer season. He had to work for three months on his swing and, more importantly, his mental game to get back in position to contend at tournaments. He said the mental focus helped him shave five to six strokes off his average. He is committed to maintaining the hard work going into his junior season in 2021.
“This has been a great season for me as a player to see every aspect of my game, especially in these pressure situations,” he said. “I still have a lot of work to do. You can never be perfect in golf. There’s always a shot you leave out there. If someone was perfect, golf wouldn’t be any fun. Going into my junior and senior years, it’s going to take sweat, blood and tears putting in the work so I can push even more for state next year.”
Colorado Academy won the team title for Class 3A with a score of 456. That was five shots clear of St. Mary’s and six ahead of third-place Kent Denver. Montezuma-Cortez shot a 484 and was eight shots better Tuesday than in the first round Monday. The Panthers placed eighth as a team, five shots behind Aspen and 24 strokes in front of Eaton.
Montezuma-Cortez senior Justin Brunner shot an 83 and an 81 to finish 22-over for the tournament. He tied for 33rd. Senior Nick Mahaffey tied for 67th after he shot 97 and then 84. M-CHS freshman Kaden Huff placed 78th with consistent rounds of 93 and 95. There were 84 players in the tournament.
“I was really proud of all the boys,” coach Plewe said. “(Brunner) played steady, and Nick shot a personal-best round ever today at state. Kaden handled the pressure really well. It was a great tournament.”