When Dylan Mitchell thinks of his summer before starting his senior year of high school, he thinks of golf.
He played in Colorado Junior Golf Association events that took him around Colorado and beyond, playing mostly against high-caliber junior golfers. In July, he even stepped it up a notch to play against more adults seeking qualifying rounds for the Colorado Open.
One of his highest-profile events was at the Junior World Championships at Torrey Pines near San Diego. He shot a 74 and 70 over two days at Pelican Lakes in Windsor to finish second overall. He and the first-place winner qualified for the SoCal tournament.
"It was cool to be there, but it was the hardest course I've ever played," said Mitchell, who missed the cut and didn't finish.
After Torrey Pines, Mitchell headed to Las Vegas to seek a qualifying score for the U.S. Amateur. He shot a 73-73 and missed the cut by seven or eight strokes. That was against anyone with a handicap of under two strokes.
He mixed in several smaller events along with the American Junior Golf Association's events at Robinson Ranch in California as well as a tournament in Oregon, where he was tied for eighth after the first day and finished 26th overall with a 70-80-71 score.
"It was my best in a three-day event," he said.
The summer of 2012 was Mitchell's first national summer. He's previously played in regional and state events, and coach Gary Sorensen pointed out that Mitchell seeks to extend his regular season at Summit High School by joining Lakewood Golf Club, where the Front Range presents more time to play.
"It's been really kinda crazy, but it's been fun. I've learned a lot of things about time management and when I needed to call it quits on tournaments and get more practice in," Mitchell said, explaining that if he did it over, he would have cut out a few tournaments, spacing them out with more practice.
At the same time, he wouldn't trade the experience for the world.
"It seemed like it helped because I got more tournament experience," he said, adding, "But close to the end of the season, I lost a lot of stamina. I wasn't 100 percent there, mentally focused all the time."
Typically, Mitchell will take a step back from his disappointments to assess what happened. The following day, he'll practice. Unless the poor showing was a fluke, in which case he'll just rest.
"At some point, it's good to have failure so you do go out and practice really hard. It's good to have reality checks," he said.
But what Mitchell wants is more consistency in his golf game, particularly as he approaches the high school regional tournament on today, which would be where his presence at the state tournament is decided.
"I've always had good rounds and then a weird round will come out and I'll shoot in the high 70s," said Mitchell, who wants to be in the low 70s every round at least. If a bad round can always be a 75 instead of a 78-80, he would be pleased, he said.
Mitchell ultimately wants to place first in the state. It's a goal from his freshman year of high school.
"I feel like I can win states this year. I feel good with my game. I feel like I'm back to where I need to be," he said.
Previously, he tied for 27th in his sophomore year and tied for 7th his junior year. He didn't make the cut his freshman year.
His biggest competition are the golfers at Valor Christian, with four on that team alone who will be tough to beat. Then again, he's competed with a number of the state contenders all summer, so he knows what he's up against.
Still, he knows he has a battle ahead of him. Last year, he nearly missed the cutoff at the regional tournament, facing a poor front nine and battling back on the back.
"You can't overlook anything," he said.
Meanwhile, Mitchell is courting college golf programs, and currently has Colorado State and Washington State at the top of his list, based on theirs and his interest.
This winter, Mitchell plans to compete in a few events regionally and nationally, but nothing like what he's done in 2012. among his goals is to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur.
"I'm right there, it's just putting those two rounds together at the right time," he said. "It's a lot about peaking at the right time."