Olkowski carries quiet confidence onto golf course
There’s a quiet confidence to Trevor Olkowski, but not a hint of cockiness.
The confidence comes from years of tournament-tested rounds of golf. Even at 17, Olkowski has already played in high-level tournaments at coveted golf courses around Colorado, the region, Las Vegas, Southern California and even Canada.
He might be as battle tested as any high school player in the state.
The missing cockiness comes from the reality that is golf. One bad round and first place becomes second, third, fourth or worse.
The Grand Junction senior has an easy smile, but behind the bright blue eyes lies the determination focused on winning a Class 5A state title.
He’s focused, confident, determined and ready.
“It feels right. I’ve always known that I can do this,” he said earlier this season. “My game has been there, now it’s really coming together.”
If his game is coming together, this season has been like Super Glue.
After Olkowski’s first five tournaments, Grand Junction coach Tom LeFebre was blown away.
“Since I’ve been coaching (16 years), I’ve never heard of a kid that’s (finished) five rounds under par, that’s phenomenal,” LeFebre said.
The new math is even more phenomenal. Ten rounds of tournament golf — all even par or under.
Two 66s, 67, 68, 70, a ho-hum 1-under par 71, a ho-hum even-par 71, a 69, a 65, and his low round of the year, a 64 in Durango on Monday. Ten rounds, not a single one over par, for a total of 38-under par with seven wins out of 10 tournaments.
His game has grown
Kneeling over a birdie putt, Olkowski’s focus is evident. His eyes are firm with intensity as he surveys the green. Every contour, ripple and slope, he evaluates. Then he stands, takes aim and lets the putter glide through the stroke, rolling the ball at the cup.
His game is deliberate and methodical. Like all parts of his game, patience has grown.
Olkowski, who will be headed to the University of Colorado next year, is now at the top of his game and with that comes a supreme mental toughness and a unflappable confidence.
Those traits have developed through countless hours of practice, and that’s the foundation of his confidence.
“Lots of drills, lots of time and effort,” he said. “That’s what golf is, you have to put in the time to get the results.
“If I miss a putt or make a bogey, I forget that hole. As soon as I walk off that green, it didn’t happen. I’m thinking about making birdie somewhere else.”
Like his round at The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa where he shot 65. He bogeyed holes 11 and 12, then regrouped, and attacked the par-5 13. As he rolled in a putt, those two bogeys vanished as he walked off the green with an eagle.
No smile, just a confident stride to the 14th tee.
LeFebre said there’s no secret behind Olkowski’s stunning senior season.
“When you have the physical talent, the game is still played between the ears,” he said. “For him, he’s so strong mentally, he knows if he has a bad hole, he puts it behind him quickly. He knows how to bounce back from a bad hole.”
Then there’s the putting, one thing Olkowski and LeFebre both single out where there’s been major improvement.
“My knowledge of the game has really helped me and my putting is night and day from what it used to be,” Olkowski said. “My putting this year has really come through. My bad rounds haven’t been that bad and my good rounds have been better.”
LeFebre saw an immediate improvement.
“It’s been impressive to watch Trevor play this season. For him, he goes back to putting because his ball striking is so consistent. So he spends a lot of time putting,” he said. “He’s a real good putter, and that’s the result of the hours and hours of practice he puts in.”
LeFebre said sometimes the philosophy of practice is just going out to the range and pounding a bucket of balls. But not Olkowski.
“I think he’s really matured and figured how to practice,” LeFebre said. “He’ll now spend hours putting, working on his short game. I think the biggest thing from his freshman year to now, is he now gets the most out of his practice sessions.”
A great legacy
Olkowski has forged a prep legacy as powerful as any titanium driver.
Back on Sept. 4, 2013, as a freshman, he won his first high school tournament, and he’s been making headlines ever since.
But there’s one headline that he craves. It’s the one that would be written if he wins the Class 5A state title.
“Winning the state tournament is definitely my goal and that’s a doable task for me,” Olkowski said with a matter-of-fact tone.
He’s been close and he’s been tormented by just how close he was the past two years. But that’s the nature of a game where torment is always lurking. One bad shot, one bad putt, one bad hole, one bad round and it’s wait till next year.
Olkowski vividly remembers his past two state tournaments: 10th as a sophomore and a tie for third last year.
“It’s been the same story last year and my sophomore year,” he said, then recalls those two tournaments without needing a single second to search his memory. “As a sophomore, I had a good round and was tied for the lead after 27 (holes), and fell apart on the last nine. Last year, a rough first day and came back with a low round on the second day, but it wasn’t enough.”
The 74-69 at state last year is a good example of some of the lessons Olkowski has learned.
One thing he’s learned is the inherently difficult part of golf in knowing when to take chances.
“It’s risk and reward,” he said. “You have to weigh your risks, and as I’ve become a better player, the risks become less and the rewards higher.”
In his first three state appearances, Olkowski has improved steadily, shooting 10-over, 8-over and 1-over in the 36-hole tournament.
One last shot at state
The soft-spoken senior takes a glance ahead to the impending state tournament and a look back at the past two years to offer another comment about his improved putting.
“I knew if I have a chance at winning state, my putting had to improve,” he said.
This season has been an epic story to this point, but the goal is obviously to have a phenomenal finish.
Just like Dorothy from the “Wizard of Oz,” Olkowski hopes there’s no place like home.
The 5A state tournament is Sept. 25-26 at Bookcliff Country Club.
That’s where all the hard work, countless hours of practice and tournaments, will come down to one more high school tournament. The one tournament Olkowski has always targeted.
“Having the state golf tournament on your home course is a good thing and a bad thing,” LeFebre said. “It’s good because you’re familiar with the course but it can be a negative because people expect you to do well, so there’s a bit more pressure.
He then grins. “But in the end we’d rather play here than anywhere else.”
More pressure? Olkowski shrugs.
“There will be a little pressure but I’m just going to stay relaxed. If I try too hard on (Bookcliff), I make a lot of pars,” he said.
Earlier in the season, Olkowski shot 66 on the Bookcliff course to win the Tiger Invitational.
“For state, I’m going to have to go low. Four or five under everyday, which I can do,” he said. “I’m planning to go out and shoot two good rounds.”
Trevor Olkowski has positioned himself to etch his name as part of high school golf history at the tournament.
Focused, confident and determined — yes, he’s ready.