Vail Christian’s Connor Downey captures 3A golf title
Saints senior rallies from two-shot deficit on Day 2 to win; VMS boys take third as team
Connor Downey was confident. He was prepared. He was excited.
“And then, of course, when it got really down to it, I was really stressed out about the whole scenario,” said Downey, a senior at Vail Christian High School.
That scenario? Leading by two strokes on the final hole of the Class 3A state golf tournament at windy Spring Valley Golf Club in Elizabeth on Tuesday.
After overcoming a two-stroke deficit from Day 1 to lead by as many as four strokes in Tuesday’s final round, Downey just needed to close. But his second shot on 18 wound up in the fairway bunker.
“For some reason I didn’t think there was that much room over to the left (on that second shot) and I aimed for the top of the mound in the bunker and it only faded a little bit,” Downey told CHSAANow.com. “It was a nervous shot for sure.”
But he steadied himself to smack a perfect third shot right onto the green on the par-5 hole. Montezuma-Cortez’s Thayer Plewe, who Downey started the day trailing by two strokes, missed the green to the left and had to chip up to within 4 feet for birdie. Needing only two strokes to secure the win, Downey rolled his 30-foot lag putt to within 18 inches before he tapped in the championship winner for a two-day total of 139.
A day later, Downey was still in shock at winning the whole shebang in 3A.
“It means a whole lot,” said the senior, who finished third last year in Gunnison behind last year’s state champion, Nic Pevny of Aspen, and Plewe. “I never saw myself doing that. You know, my freshman year, sophomore year, even though I got to states both those years, I just didn’t see it happening. It means a lot because it’s a big deal. It will do a lot for my confidence.”
Downey was a one-man band at state, the only qualifier from Vail Christian’s team. Pevny led Aspen to the 3A team title, but it was Downey who walked off with the individual trophy as the state’s top 3A golfer in 2021.
Downey said he and his father celebrated Tuesday with a big dinner at P.F. Chang’s. At school Wednesday, they announced his win to the whole school over the loud speaker.
Other than that, he hadn’t heard about any plans for a parade or a pep rally.
“I really don’t know what it means yet for my school,” Downey told CHSAANow.com Tuesday. “I kind of feel like a lot of people don’t really care about golf in my school, but I think this will certainly change some things.”
As for what’s next, Downey said he’s looking forward to playing his senior season for the Saints varsity basketball team, and he has hopes of playing competitive golf in college.
He said he has talked to some Division I schools and some Division II schools, and he hopes his 3A title only helps attract more attention from college programs.
Led by Pevny, Aspen took home the 3A team title with a two-day stroke total of 447 while Vail Mountain School took third as a team with 456.
Tiki Jaffe led the way for the Gore Rangers, finishing in a tie for sixth (148), followed by Felix Gruner (15th, 154), Stewie Bruce (16th, 155) and Hunter Salani (29th, 159).