The Palmer Ridge boys’ golf team isn’t shy about its state aspirations.
The Bears want a podium finish. And they could get just that next year, considering the number of talent they return.
And coach Gary Long couldn’t be happier. In October, he guided three Palmer Ridge juniors and one senior to a school-best third-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament at The Club at Flying Horse. That performance topped last year’s showing by one spot.
“We had hoped to be in the top two but didn’t quite reach that,” he said. “That’s still a goal for us next year.”
Long’s historic season was enough to land him The Gazette Preps Boys’ Golf Coach of the Year honor. But he and the Bears aren’t ready to stop just yet. They return three juniors who all played a role in this year’s state run.
The lone senior was Drew Laake, who wrapped up his Palmer Ridge career with a 2-over par 74 on the second day of the state championship. He finished 10th with two other golfers after shooting 153. The Bears finished with a 468 in the team standings — not too far behind winner Montrose (451) and runner-up Steamboat Springs (457).
Montrose will be a favorite to repeat as a state champion for the third consecutive time next season. The Indians return all their state qualifiers, including Micah Stangebye, who shot a 4-under 140 to overwhelmingly capture the individual title.
But don’t count out the Bears just yet.
After this year’s state tournament, Laake had high hopes for his fellow teammates in Trey Jones (18th, 157), Elijah Harp (18th, 157) and Lance Phillips (32nd, 166). The latter three all have high state aspirations, just like their coach.
“The good news is,” Laake told The Gazette after the state tournament, “I have three juniors on this team and they’ll be in the same position next year, trying to win a state title.”