Falcons’ Barker wins 5A golf title

Posted 10/10/09

Caleb Barker knows how to swing low, all the way to a state championship. Highlands Ranch High School golf’s Barker, a junior, won the Class 5A …

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Falcons’ Barker wins 5A golf title


Caleb Barker knows how to swing low, all the way to a state championship.

Highlands Ranch High School golf’s Barker, a junior, won the Class 5A state boys golf individual championship Oct. 6 at Saddle Rock Golf Course in Aurora after shooting a 1-under par 143, five strokes better than two-time state runner-up Cody Kent of Douglas County.

Barker and the rest of the Falcons, despite any weather issues over the two-day event, were well familiar with Saddle Rock, which was cause for some disappointment among the celebration for their individual title winner.

“Our two and three players shot in the 80s,” said Falcons coach James Barker, who was named Coach of the Year. “We had won a Continental League event at Saddle Rock in September with four scores in the 70s and all of our kids had shot around par or under in our many practice rounds this summer and fall.

“Caleb had shot 70 in a practice round and won the league tournament with a 71, so he and Saddle Rock had been getting along well for a while. Even though we were thrilled for Caleb, we were disappointed that we didn’t win the team title. If we would have just shot our average scores for the season the team title would have been ours also. We return our entire team next year, so we’ll have another chance at the team title.”

Barker, one of three Falcons to qualify for state this season, shot a 70 for Round 1 with an eagle on hole No. 15 to take the lead and a 73 for Round 2. Caleb Barker said he was never told where he was among the top golfers wrapping up the final round. His aim was to stay focused on each hole.

“I just wanted to focus on what it was all for,” Caleb Barker said.

Caleb had shot several rounds on Saddle Rock over the summer and the week before state. Once the team mapped out the course, it was about sticking to the game plan, the junior said.

Teammate Blake Basham shot a 157 to tie for 17th place, and Connor Klein, one of the team’s two best players who won two tournaments over the summer with a 74 average for the season, shot 173, placing Ranch fifth among 5A teams with 473.

“I felt bad for sophomore Connor Klein,” James Barker said. “As golf sometimes does, his game and confidence left him at the wrong time, and he struggled. Sophomore Blake Basham struggled at times but hung in for an 80 [in Round 1].”

The Falcons were six strokes behind fourth-place Dakota Ridge. Douglas County claimed the 5A team title for a second year in a row. Regis was two strokes behind the Huskies in second, and Mountain Range was third.

Rain made problems for the state event’s first round, but Ranch was able to luck out and finish about 20 minutes before the weather turned wet. Ranch and others also dealt with a one hour and 30 minute frost delay to start Round 2, but eventually it turned into a 60-degree day in the sun.

After going 7-over through his first 10 holes, Basham played his last eight 2-under par for a 77.

“The pins were tucked into corners of the greens and there were a few holes cut near slopes where the ball could roll 10-20 feet away if you were not careful,” Barker said. “I witnessed a number of players putting balls that rolled off the green on No. 9 and No. 17, so I thought I better warn Caleb about those spots.”

Coach Barker said he got to see Caleb play the last 11 holes of the tournament. In the past year, he had been in position to win a number of big tournaments, only to have disaster strike on the last few holes, the coach said.

“I could see that he wasn’t going to let that happen this time,” Barker said. “He and his swing coach Tom Talbot of Meridian Learning Center have been working hard the last few months and it showed. His swing held up under pressure. He was focused and determined to finish the job.”

Caleb Barker’s putting was also in check with a lot of speed control and several difficult slick greens. Down the stretch, the junior started to impress spectators, making a 6-footer for par on No. 16, chipping in for a birdie on No. 17 and hitting his approach on No. 18 from a fairway bunker to 25 feet, to set up an easy par and a four-shot victory.

“What impressed me the most was the way he thought his way around the golf course, stuck to his game plan, his recovery from bad shots and his one bad hole, and his ability to stay focused and committed to every shot,” James Barker said.

Caleb said he struggled the most with the No. 10 hole at Saddle Rock. In fact, he doesn’t recall hitting the fairway on that hole once until Round 1 at state this year. For next year, the junior isn’t even thinking about winning back to back, just remaining competitive.

“The experience was definitely greater, because I was in contention,” Caleb said. “We didn’t do very well as a team last year, and I didn’t do well either. There’s more experience in winning, I guess.”

With its youth, the Falcons have had trouble focusing on what’s important from time to time, the coach said. Last year, Caleb would let a few bad shots or a bad hole or two destroy his whole round. But this year, his composure stayed intact much better. His patience was evident, and waiting for something good to happen on the course paid off; in the form of a state championship.


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