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Boys' golf Peak Performers: Prater leads the way with a mind that always churning
Golf is a game of tempo, not speed. That presents a constant problem for Colin Prater, whose mind is not wired for a leisurely pace.
So if you see Prater on the course walking in virtual slow motion and grinding his speech patterns to a halt with pauses between each word; it’s for a reason.
“When I start to talk really fast then I start to swing really fast and then my putting stroke starts to go really fast and it all goes out of whack,” Prater said.
This was the primary lesson he took from renowned local golf instructor Ann Finke, who found little to fix in a swing that has helped Prater win the 5A Metro three times and cap his high school career by qualifying for his fourth 5A state tournament, where he finished fifth.
What makes applying this lesson so difficult — almost counterintuitive — is that in the rest of his life, Prater’s Type-A personality serves him so well.
“He’s constantly going, constantly moving,” said Palmer golf coach Jason Kohl, who knows Prater as an athlete, as a peer and childhood teammate of his son and as a student in his American West class. “He just excels at everything. That’s just the way the kid is. There isn’t any cutting corners, he goes full throttle pretty much everything he does.”
Prater carries a 4.4 GPA and runs in virtually every social circle at the city’s oldest high school. He is friends with members of the sports teams, with his fellow students in the advance placement classes and with those he sits with on the Student Council, where he spearheads fundraisers and promotes all that Palmer has to offer.
“I know everyone at Palmer, pretty much,” said the senior, who has yet to decide between biology, chemistry or engineering as an educational path.
Prater’s obsessive tendencies date back as far as he can remember. He distinctly recalls “screaming and going crazy” when the Broncos won the Super Bowl in 1998.
He was 2.
His room was covered in Broncos memorabilia at the time and remains so to this day.
That’s the thing about Prater’s mind. He finds things he’s passionate about and attacks them full bore. But he doesn’t tire of them.
There’s no better example than golf.
With the help of his parents and grandparents, he’s played countless rounds since childhood. His summers have turned into constant trips to the next tournament. This past year he qualified for tournaments in Florida and Texas.
He can’t get enough of the sport, yet it never draws his ire.
“Golf wasn’t fun for that second nine at state,” Prater said. “That wasn’t fun.”
Prater, always the thinker, had long ago set goals for his progression at the state tournament. He wanted to qualify as a freshman (he did), crack the top 25 as a sophomore (he was 26th, close enough) and then win it.
He was achingly close to achieving that goal this year in Golden. Errant tee shots on two par 3s left him with him with triple and double bogeys. He ended up four shots behind the winner and in fifth place.
That did little to dull the shine off of a spectacular senior season in which Prater won all four 5A Metro events in which he participated. He averaged a 72 in those four league events and placed second at a regional.
Prater is the best player Kohl has coached in his 16 years at Palmer, a school with a student body not on an economic level as high on average as more traditional golf schools like Cheyenne Mountain or Air Academy.
“When I was a freshman I wasn’t the greatest golfer in the world, so I wasn’t really thinking about that,” said Prater, when asked if he considered attending a school with a deeper golf tradition. “I’m very happy with the decision to go to Palmer, it’s worked out.”
Added Kohl, “I knew he’d play golf, but I had no idea what he’d turn out to be. He got so much better. He just doubled his ability in high school alone. Especially in the last couple of years once he began to focus on golf alone.”
Yes, here we are again, talking about focus and climbing back inside Colin Prater’s head. It likely required such a mind, that of a busybody perfectionist, to become the area’s best golfer despite financial limitations, size disadvantages (he was just 5-foot-2, 110 pounds as a sophomore) and with a game built on feel rather than analyzed mechanics. (“It’s all about hitting the ball and seeing where the ball goes,” Prater said. “I know that if I’m pushing the ball right what I need to do in order to correct that.”)
Now we’re overthinking it.
Truth is, Prater hasn’t excelled at golf because of or despite what’s in his head. Rather, the key has been what’s in his heart.
“I’ve always loved golf,” he said. “And I think I always will.”