Montezuma-Cortez High School has quite a tradition going – playing golf into the month of October.
In back-to-back seasons, Panthers boys team has hosted the 3A Region 1 golf tournament, and the Panthers duplicated their second-place team performance from 2021, earning one of two team spots in the 3A state championships at Pinehurst Country Club in Denver on Oct. 3-4.
After top 10 state finishes in 2020 and 2021, the Panthers have set their sights set on a top-tier finish yet again.
Playing at Conquistador Golf Course in Cortez, the Panthers enjoyed the benefits of a familiar turf during the 18-hole state qualifying round.
Senior standout Thayer Plewe led a field of 61 competitors wire to wire, firing the tournament’s only under-par round – a four-under 68 – to avenge last year’s runner-up finish. Of the four regions that send qualifiers to the state tournament, Plewe’s round stood as the only one in the 60s, placing him among the individual favorites heading into the 36-hole championships in two weeks.
The highly lauded senior seeks his first individual state title after finishing achingly close as a runner-up during his sophomore and junior seasons.
Taking advantage of his tremendous distance off the tee, Plewe made mincemeat of the four par-fives on Conquistador, with birdies on each of them en route to his six-birdie performance. Plewe opened the round three-under par through four holes, throwing down the gauntlet for a cluster of Colorado Academy golfers who aimed to unseat the Panther.
At the halfway point, Plewe held a two-shot lead, and from there, he never left the door open for his competitors to threaten his dominance.
Colorado Academy placed four golfers in the top seven individual spots to capture the team title (225), led by senior J.T. Timmers’ 72.
Meanwhile, the Panthers sat 11 strokes off the pace (236) as sophomore Vince Lopez posted one of his best rounds of the season (80) to finish tied for sixth in the overall standings. The second-year talent makes his return to the state field, coming off a 25th-place finish in 2021.
Meanwhile, junior Airoughn VanGrandt took the final scoring spot for the Panthers, collecting an 88 to help the Panthers outdistance third-place Pagosa Springs by 18 strokes. VanGrandt enjoyed a breakout year for the Panthers, regularly finishing among the team’s top three scorers, and will make his state debut at Pinehurst.
Classmate Kaden Huff finished a stroke off the pace of VanGrandt (89), as the duo finished 17th and 18th in the overall standings.
Regional winners from the four 3A tournaments included Colorado Academy, Kent Denver, Resurrection Christian and Vail Mountain School. The Panthers look to shake up the standings in early October over the two-day event on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 3 and 4. M-CHS finished sixth in 2021 and eighth the year before, hoping that their trajectory will take them among the top teams in the state.