Saints’ Gould finishes second at state tourney
STERLING — Vail Christian’s Cooper Gould is really a “glass is half-full” kind of guy.
The Vail Christian senior put up two exquisite rounds of 73 at the 3A state tournament on Monday and Tuesday at the Northeastern 18 in Sterling. That put him in a three-way playoff for the individual title.
After Gould and Alexander Dawson’s Yale Kim shook Sterling’s Trey Lambrecht after one hole, they went three more playoff holes before Kim won out, leaving the Vail Christian senior as the silver medalist.
One would expect Gould to be upset. Imagine coming so close to your goal — having an opportunity to win the tourney in regulation — his birdie putt just lipped out on 18. Imagine having “three or four putts to win the thing,” as he said. That could cause a lot of people to deposit their clubs in the water that crosses the Sterling 18.
“Yeah, I would say I was a little disappointed, but I didn’t let it affect me,” Gould said. “I am so blessed and happy to be playing there in the first place. All I can say is that it was so much fun, the whole week and the playoff.”
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“It was awesome just to see both of them playing great,” said the Saints Tony Clark of the playoff with Gould and Kim. “It was great to see the atmosphere. In a pressure situation they both played great, but knew it was just golf.”
Teeing it up at Eagle Ranch?
Lambrecht, teeing it up on his home course, looked like he was going to run away and hide after Day 1. The Sterling golfer played four holes at 5-under on the back on his way to a 68, which led the field by three strokes and Gould by five.
Gould, with his Day 1 score of 73, thought that Lambrecht would come back to the field a little bit, but he still thought he had to go way low on Tuesday. He said his goal was a 3-under 69.
Gould was actually wrong on both counts, which was just fine. Lambrecht had no Day 2 magic and shot a 78, coming back to the pack. Meanwhile, Gould was playing steady golf but not finding any red numbers.
The key for Gould was to play down the moment.
“I tried to take the weight out of every shot,” Gould said. “What I mean by this is taking the circumstances and treating it like it was a round at Eagle Ranch like I’ve done so many times over the years. I felt very separated from the circumstance and never got nervous.”
The only thing wrong with pretending that the Sterling 18 was Eagle Ranch is that No. 17 in Arnie Land is a long par-4, while No. 17 in Sterling was a 185-yard par-3.
Gould had no idea he needed a birdie on 17 or 18. He just knew that Lambrecht had taken a tumble.
But his 7-iron put him on the dance floor above the pin on 17, and he jarred the 20-foot downhill slider for a much-needed tweeter. Gould nearly birdied the 18th to win the tournament outright. (Lip-outs and generally not sinking putts was the theme of the tournament for all players.)
Clark was first to come up to Gould and tell him he was in a playoff, and as it turned out, everyone got to know the 18th pretty darn well.
On first playoff hole on the home hole, Lambrecht bogeyed and was done. And for good measure, Gould and Kim played the 18th three more times, trading pars. Gould struck the ball beautifully. He just couldn’t get a putt to go.
On the fourth playoff hole, Gould had a drive leaving him 80 yards to the green. He tried a punch sand wedge and he chunked it. He recovered to get a chip to within 3 feet — but back to theme of the day, he couldn’t sink it. Kim parred the hole and took the title.
Fellow senior Tony Cark has a pretty busy week — go to Sterling and play in the state tournament on Monday and Tuesday and then have hip surgery on Friday.
His right hip had bugged him since his sophomore year, when he hurt it playing lacrosse. It’s been a nagging injury, which got worse as this year’s golf season progressed.
Not that he didn’t want to do well; Clark viewed the state tournament as bonus golf.
“It was just great to be blessed with another two rounds of golf,” he said.
Clark got rid of some early state shakes (five bogeys and one tweeter on his first nine), settling in for a nice 38 on the back nine on Day 1. He continued his steady play through 13 holes — only 2-over — on Tuesday before he had an ugly on the par-4, 356-yard 14th, which got a lot of people.
“The second day was all about having fun and enjoying my last round of high school golf,” Clark said. “I don’t know what it was. I definitely prayed a few times. Whatever it was, it was fun. If it takes more strokes than I like, it’s OK.”
Clark bounced back to birdie on the 16th — he birdied three of the four par-5s on Tuesday — to finish with an 80. He ended up tied for 20th with the Vail Mountain School’s Ben Barron.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.