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Niwot's McPeak takes 15th in State Golf Tournament


Approaching the 18th hole on the final day of the State Tournament, Niwot High School’s Claire McPeak just needed to finish with a four-stroke par to finish five strokes under her first day score of 86.

What McPeak didn’t expect was for the ever changing Colorado weather to take an abrupt turn, from a beautiful sunny day in Pueblo to a sudden rain storm mixed with quarter-inch hail.

“Personally I don’t mind golfing in the rain, but it was the hail that got to me,” McPeak said after finishing with a five-stroke bogey on the final hole and recording a final day score of 82. “As I was lining up my put I got it in my head that the hail was going to hit my ball and throw it off course.”

McPeak, a senior at Alexander Dawson School who lives in Niwot, finished +24 for the tournament, which was good enough for a 15th place finish. Her goal was to place in the top ten, but even though she didn’t reach her goal McPeak said it didn’t dampen her spirits.

After the first five holes of the second round last Tuesday, McPeak was five shots over par for the round and was quickly slipping down the leaderboard. She made an incredible turn around however, parring her next six holes and hitting eight straight greens in regulation.

“I think part of it was just relaxing and putting it all into perspective that this was my last tournament in high school,” McPeak said of her ability to recover.

Head coach Dylan Hollingsworth walked all 18 holes with McPeak on the final day and was witness to her turnaround. He said her greatest accomplishment of the tournament was managing both her emotions and the course.

“I thought Claire did a nice job keeping her emotions in check,” Hollingsworth said. “The first day was tough for her but she still managed herself well. Day two she did a wonderful job managing the course, she just had a tough time putting.”

McPeak wasn’t the only Cougar competing in the tournament last week. Senior Keena Strope made the state championship in just her third year playing competitive golf.

Strope didn’t quite have the success she would have liked in the championship, finishing 72nd out of 85 competitors, but she accomplished her goal of making it to the tournament.

“Strope had to be one of the top 85 golfers in the state to make it here,” Hollingsworth said of Strope’s performance. “She wasn’t happy with the way she golfed but she set a goal to make it to state and she accomplished her goal.”

Assistant coach Isaac Pena was Strope’s coach on the final day of competition and said though her final round wasn’t what they would have liked it to be, she finished strong in the final six holes of the tournament.

“During heavy competition like football and basketball, you don’t think about pressure until the end,” Pena said. “With golf, it’s such a mental game and you have to keep it straight the whole time. If you mess up on a hole you have to keep your composure and attack the next one.”

In their first year coaching girls golf in Colorado, Hollingsworth and Pena did well to get two girls to the state championship. Hollingsworth said this year was a learning experience for him and Pena and they will apply what they learned this season to further develop the girls remaining in their program.

“We only lose two girls this year,” Hollingsworth said of the team moving forward. “Unfortunately they are the two girls who made state this year, but there are some good young girls coming up and we just need to figure out how to continue our success.”

For McPeak, she will look back on her time golfing for Niwot fondly and hopes that she left a legacy for other girls to follow after she is gone.

“I hope that other girls are inspired to keep golfing and to find something they are passionate about and go at it full force,” McPeak said. “As long as you have passion you have the ability to take it all the way.”


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