GJ’s Stern, Central’s Hoppe qualify for state golf

GARY BAINES/Special to The Daily Sentinel
GRAND JUNCTION’S MARK STERN shot a season-best 5-over-par 75 in Niwot on Wednesday to qualify for the Class 5A stage golf tournament.



NIWOT — Grand Junction junior Mark Stern picked a very opportune time to shoot his best round of the boys’ golf season. And Central senior Calan Hoppe came through with the end of his high school golf career staring him in the face.

The two were the only state qualifiers out of the local contingent of a dozen golfers who competed Wednesday at the 5A Northern Regional at Lake Valley Golf Club. Stern and Hoppe will advance to the 5A state tournament, which will be played Oct. 6-7 at Eisenhower Golf Course in Colorado Springs.

Stern shot a 5-over-par 75 to qualify for state with room to spare and Hoppe took a tougher route, firing a 78 and then surviving a playoff. After a 320-yard drive on the first extra hole, Hoppe nestled a sand-wedge approach shot within 6 feet of the cup and sank the birdie putt to overcome two other players who also shot 78s.

“That’s not the way I wanted to do it today, but I got the job done,” Hoppe said. “Anytime you go to sudden death, you don’t want to be scared. You’ve got to attack. It turned out just the way I wanted in the playoff.”

Like Hoppe, Stern will be going to state for the first time. But Stern had to play one of the best rounds of his life to advance, and that’s just what he did. After averaging about 81 for the season and not shooting below 78, Stern set a new personal best.

“I wanted to end the season on a high note,” he said. “I was trying to shoot under 78 or 79. I knew I was capable of shooting some good numbers, and today things clicked.”
Indeed, Stern called reaching his season-long goal of qualifying for state his biggest accomplishment as a
golfer.

For Hoppe, earning a state berth was a big relief, especially given that this was his last shot. The past three years, he said he “choked at regionals,” which kept him from even competing at state. And he was concerned that he had squandered his fourth opportunity with his 78, about three strokes higher than his season scoring average.

“It was a struggle today; I hit it pretty bad,” said Hoppe, winner of two invitational tournaments this season.

But a quirky regional tournament rule gave him life. If the fourth player on a team qualifier doesn’t finish within 10 shots of the final individual qualifiers, that player doesn’t go to state, thus opening up another individual berth. And that’s what happened in the case of regional team champion Poudre, and Hoppe took advantage.

With three golfers playing off for the last available spot, Hoppe left nothing to chance with his sudden-death birdie, which Boulder’s Robby Craugh and Mountain Range’s Clay Labrec couldn’t match.

“The first three years, I wanted to go to state so bad,” Hoppe said. “There’s a lot of pressure because everyone wants to go. I just know I’m looking forward to it.”

Fruita Monument, led by Jeff Cunningham’s 81, finished 11th in the 16-team regional, Central was 12th and Grand Junction 13th.

Defending 5A state champion Fairview joined Poudre in qualifying a team for state.


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