As he prepared to head to Gunnison this weekend, Max Noffsinger had played at Dos Rios Country Club — the site of the Class 3A boys golf state tournament — just once in his life, this past summer.
His teammate and fellow Frontier Academy state qualifier Jon Schmidt had never played on the course before.
Fortunately, that is the only part of their state tournament excursion into the Western Slope that is the least bit unfamiliar.
Noffsinger will be playing in his fourth state tournament when the two-day tournament kicks off Monday. He’s the first four-time qualifier in the six years Frontier has had a program.
Schmidt, a Platte Valley student, will be playing in his second consecutive state tournament.
Schmidt tied for 70th in his first state tournament a year ago. But, just having that experience gives him a whole new level of confidence as he prepares to tee off at a course with plenty of unknowns on Monday.
“Last year, I was pretty shaky, and I think it was just because I wasn’t comfortable and I was a first-timer there,” Schmidt said on Thursday, just two days before he was set to arrive in Gunnison. “I feel like this year, I’m going to be a lot more settled in and just be able to play how I want to play.”
Noffsinger cracked the top 10 at state a year ago when the tournament was at the United States Air Force Academy.
He would like to do even better this coming week.
Setting lofty goals, and achieving them, is nothing new for Noffsinger.
“When Max qualified his freshman year, he looked at me and said, ‘Mom, I’m going to do this four years in a row. I’m going to fill this side of my letterman jacket with state patches,’ and he gets to do that,” said Jessica Noffsinger, Frontier’s coach and Max’s mother. “And, he’s improved every year that he’s gone (to state). He didn’t have the season (this fall) I think he was hoping for in tournament play. But, I’ll tell you what, this kid is ready to go show everybody what he can do on the golf course.”
Max said he’s feel confident and comfortable with the state tournament environment. And, he feels like he has the potential to make sure his final high school competition is his most successful state tournament to date.
“Accomplishing that (four-time state qualification) goal feels really good, but I just want to go see how I compete at state this year and leave all that behind,” Max said. “Obviously, I want to go out there and try to win. … I think I may have a chance. But, if not, I just really want to finish better than last year.”
Max and Schmidt will play nine practice holes at Dos Rios on Saturday then have a full 18-hole practice round Sunday.
Just having this duo of Noffsinger and Schmidt back in the state tournament for the second consecutive year is an accomplishment in itself for a young, rising program, Jessica Noffsinger said.
In fact, this is the fourth year in a row the Wolverines have had multiple qualifiers in the state tournament.
“It’s a very proud moment for our program,” Jessica said. “Just 84 players go to the state tournament. They should be proud to be able to make it to the state tournament. It shows that they work hard and they get out there and compete.”
Bobby Fernandez covers high school sports for the Greeley Tribune. Reach him at (970) 392-4478, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @BobbyDFernandez.