Fort Collins freshman golfer AJ Ott feels he should be at par or under every time he steps on a golf course.
That confidence comes from playing golf competitively since before he entered middle school.
“I was pretty confident because I had played pretty well coming off the end of the summer season,” said Ott, who finished tied for sixth at last week’s Class 5A state golf championships. “I felt like my game was in pretty good shape.”
In addition to adjusting to a new level of competitive golf, Ott had to deal with transitioning into the high school environment.
“I’ve loved it — coming into high school with a lot of different people, and you’re playing with your friends,” he said. “That was a lot of fun, and it was also a lot more competitive, which I was looking forward to because it would be more challenging.”
That step up in competition lead to a personally disappointing regular season for Ott.
“I had a few good rounds, but overall I don’t think I played as well as I could have,” he said. “I could have improved. It could have been a lot better.”
Fort Collins head golf coach Kyle Tregoning viewed Ott’s season in a more positive light.
“He had an unbelievable season for a freshman. Not many freshman can step in and be competitive at the varsity level,” Tregoning said. “He played in a lot of tournaments beforehand, so it’s not like it was new for him.”
The 5A boys state golf tournament, however, proved to be a completely different animal.
“I definitely felt some pressure like I do at every tournament, but not a lot because I knew I had a lot of chances to play again there if I qualified the next few years,” Ott said. “There was also pressure from myself because I knew I had played pretty good coming into that, and I wanted to post some good rounds and have a respectable showing there.”
Tregoning never talked with Ott about the pressure of the state competition because he felt confident in how Ott would handle it.
“We talk to our kids more about the pressure of regionals than state because regionals is a one-day competition and state is a two-day competition,” Tregoning said. “All it takes is for somebody to get hot and win the thing.”
Douglas County junior Kyler Dunkle hit five birdies on the second day to win the tournament, while Ott shot a four-over-par on both days.
“I told him to hang around and play consistent golf and good things will happen, and that’s what he did,” Tregoning said.
Ott was initially displeased with his showing at the state tournament.
“After the round, I was kind of mad because I didn’t really play my best at all,” he said. “I wasn’t too grateful right after the round, but now I look back at it and as a freshman, I’m pretty happy with it.”
Knowing that he can still improve, and the fact that he didn’t play his best and still competed with the best golfers in the state helped boost Ott’s post-tournament feelings about his future.
Now he will use it as motivation to continue to improve and place better as his career continues.
“It’ll help knowing that as a freshman I can place up there pretty high even when I don’t play my best,” Ott said. “In these next years, I’ll try to practice even harder so I come into state more prepared, and I can try to play my best.”