GREELEY — It certainly wasn’t out of the question that Niwot High School’s Jim Sherman would qualify for the Class 4A state golf tournament.
But conventional wisdom suggested that if Sherman was going to make it, it would be because the Cougars qualified as a team.
On Monday at Boomerang Links Golf Course, Sherman did qualify for state, but he didn’t do it with the help of his teammates. In fact, he’s not bringing any of them with him.
Sherman not only led Niwot to a fourth-place finish at the Class 4A Northern Regional tournament; he was also the only player from the St. Vrain Valley to qualify for the Oct. 3-4 state tournament.
The top three teams and the the five best individuals not on those three teams qualified for state. Yuma (224 shots), Northridge (228) and Greeley Central (229) were the team qualifiers. Sherman was the top individual qualifier outside of those teams.
“I’m pretty shocked, actually,” Sherman said after firing a 2-over-par 74 to place third overall individually. “It’s my best score ever. I’ve never shot anywhere close to this.”
Going into the regional tournament, Sherman’s teammates — Nick Zelie and
Seth Boveri — were the two favorites from the area to reach the state
tournament. Even Ryan Williams of Skyline and Brenden German of Longmont seemed more likely to make it out of regionals.
German shot a 76 but missed out on state in a playoff. Zelie, Boveri and Williams struggled.
That left Sherman as the only one standing and others asking, Where did he come from?
“Really, out of nowhere,” he said.
He’s not kidding. Although only a junior, Sherman has had a very unconventional high school career.
After his freshman year at Boulder High School, he moved to New Jersey and attended Milburn High School for a short period of time. He came back to Colorado in time to play part of the 2004 golf season with Silver Creek (averaging 85.7 strokes in three tournaments).
Then he transferred to Alexander Dawson. He played six basketball games with the Mustangs before dropping out of school at the start of the spring semester to take care of personal issues.
This fall, he enrolled at Niwot, his fourth high school.
“It’s definitely not normal at all,” he said. “I don’t really have a good reason. It’s just been a crazy last four years.”
Sherman had to sit out the first half of this season because of the Colorado High School Activities Association transfer rule. Monday’s contest was only his fourth varsity tournament with the Cougars.
Bringing a 78.7 scoring average into regionals, Sherman hoped simply to help the Cougars make a run at one of the top three team places.
“I thought I’d come in and Nick would be four shots under me,” Sherman said. “I hoped to shoot right around 78 or 79. I would have been really happy with that.”
Sherman had three birdies and sat at 2 under par through eight holes. He double-bogeyed No. 9 but rebounded with five consecutive pars to keep his score even. Back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16 cost him, but he never lost his focus.
“Teeing up on No. 18 is when it kind of hit me,” he said. “I was just on fire. I was just solid all day.”
Zelie and Boveri, unfortunately, were not.
Boveri is a senior who had missed out on state by one stroke as a sophomore and junior. An 11-over 83 doomed him this time.
Zelie was a surprise qualifier as a sophomore in 2004. He was a surprise non-qualifier this time. Steady all year, Zelie finished at 6-over 78 on Monday, two shots above his average.
“It came down to three bad swings the whole 18 holes,” he said.
Zelie yanked his tee shots on Nos. 5 and 11 out of bounds.
“I can find my six shots on those two holes right there,” he said. “Other than that, it was smooth all the way around.”
Despite Sherman’s performance, it was a disappointing day for Niwot. The Cougars finished only six shots short of third-place Greeley Central and qualifying for state as a team, and could have taken third with solid performances across the board.
“I definitely feel we should have been there,” Zelie said.
No player in the area rode the emotional roaster-coaster German did, however. With a 76, the Longmont senior tied his best score of the season and started planning for his first state tournament before he even finished his round.
“Going down (the 18th fairway), I was thinking, ‘I’m going to call my dad and call my mom and tell them I’m going to state,’” he said.
In most years, 76 would be good enough. But on Monday, a 76 put German in a five-way tie for four state-qualifying positions. That put the quintet in a playoff.
On the first playoff hole, the par-4 10th, German was the only player in the group to hit the green in regulation. He lipped a par putt, however, and settled for bogey, meaning he was one of three players left fighting for two spots (Stuart Thompson of Fossil Ridge and Austin Hickert of Sterling parred No. 10 to qualify).
The second playoff hole was the par-5 No. 18. This time, German lipped out a birdie putt and settled for par. Mike Turner of Fort Morgan birdied to grab the third qualifying spot.
That left German and Greeley West’s Ralph Fisher fighting for the final spot. Back to No. 10, they both parred to force a fourth playoff hole.
German’s third shot on No. 18 found the sand trap, and he finished with a bogey 6. Fisher parred to end the playoff.
“It’s just really devastating,” said German, who is the first alternate should someone from the regional not be able to play at state. “I played good enough, but not good enough. I felt good with the way I was hitting the ball. I couldn’t have asked for a better round in the regionals.”