FRISCO — Though it’s been a strong high school golf season for Ryley Cibula, it’d been a few tournaments since the Summit High School junior put the exclamation point on his round with a par or better.
Cibula did just that at the state tournament Tuesday at The Bridges in Montrose, draining a 20-foot putt on the par-5 ninth hole to complete the second of his two state tournament rounds with five consecutive pars.
Cibula’s consistency on the final stretch of his 36 total holes at state earned him a 76 18-hole round Tuesday. He combined that score with an 84 on Monday to finish in 30th place in the 4A State Championship Tournament with a 160.
Cibula’s score was seven strokes better than last year, when he shot a 167 at his state championship debut at The Club at Flying Horse in Colorado Springs.
Playing on the most difficult course of the season by a wide margin, Cibula was followed by Tiger sophomore Ricky Ahlquist (84, 90, 174) and freshman Jackson True (102, 104, 206).
In advance of the state tournament, the Summit golfers practiced at the Keystone River Course, which closed over the weekend, after their home course, Keystone Ranch, closed two weeks ago. After the trio had Sunday to play a practice round at The Bridges — the first time Cibula ever played the course — they dove deep into the long 67,000-foot course full of sand traps and water hazards.
In advance of states, Cibula was working to get his stroke back to how strong it felt at last month’s Keystone Ranch Invitational, where he shot a +1 to finish in second. But practicing on The Bridges’ driving range, Cibula noticed his drives falling 10 to 15 yards shorter than up at the Ranch Course at 9,000-plus feet.
With that, Cibula pivoted to shooting more drivers and low irons, as scoring opportunities were hard to come by on the long course with water hazards on every hole but one.
“It was hard to trust which club hit,” Cibula said.
On the par-71 18-hole course, Cibula started his first round Monday on the 10th hole, which meant he’d be staring the toughest stretch of The Bridges in the face. The beginning proved daunting for Cibula, as the junior shot +10 from holes 10 to 18.
But Cibula bounced back from what he described as his worst stretch of the season to shoot just +3 on his back nine, which were The Bridges’ Holes No. 1 through 9.
What helped Cibula to turn it around, enough to stick his 100-yard approach shot with a sand wedge to within two feet of the third hole?
“My attitude,” he said. “I was pretty frustrated on that front nine, and then once I … finished those first nine holes, I was just trying to get through the day with a score under 85. Hole No. 3, my 12th hole, I made a birdie, which boosted my confidence.
Cibula’s first-round 84 was evidence that he was beginning to play The Bridges better. Then, at about 7 p.m. Monday, Cibula got the news that he’d be starting his second and final round at states once again on No. 10. But Cibula embraced it, as he preferred to start his round with the more difficult stretch rather than saving it for the end.
On his second go-round on that stretch of No. 10 through 18, Cibula shot a 39, seven strokes better than Monday. And it all started with a crucial par on the difficult par-5 No. 10, which he double bogeyed Monday.
Riding that wave of momentum, Cibula ramped it up on his final nine holes of the 36-round tournament before sinking that 20-foot par putt on his final hole to shoot +5 on the day.
“I’m just proud I finally finished a round with a par,” Cibula said.
Cibula, a junior, will get one more try at state during his senior campaign next fall. Between now and then, he said he will take about a month break from golf while starting his training for hockey.
The junior also will prepare for next fall’s high school golf season by playing more tournaments in the highly competitive Rocky Mountain Junior Tour, which hosts tournaments from Wyoming to Arizona, and the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado.