Ryley’s round: Summit golfer Cibula shoots best round of his life to finish runner-up at Keystone Ranch Invite

Summit junior Ryley Cibula makes his way to the putting green on the 15th hole at Keystone Ranch Golf Course during the Keystone Golf Invitational on Thursday, Sept. 19, in Keystone.
Liz Copan /

KEYSTONE – While his Summit High School golf team chipped and putted before playing a practice round Wednesday evening, head coach Gary Sorenson remarked how his favorite part of coaching is when his players crack a smile. In an often-frustrating game like golf, grins can be hard to come by.

But, boy, was Ryley Cibula smiling wide Thursday evening.

“That was legitimate,” Sorenson said, with a smile of his own, after a Cibula pointed to his score on the leaderboard after Thursday’s competition concluded.

On a course he knows better than any other, the Summit High junior shot an 18-hole score of one-over par 73 (+1) at Thursday’s Keystone Ranch Invitational. Cibula’s score tied his own personal best: another 73 last summer during a recreational round at the familiar Ranch course, a short bike ride from his home.

Those extra rounds at the Ranch Course (Cibula estimated he played more than 70 times this summer) paid off for the junior on Thursday. When he found out he’d be starting his round from the Ranch Course’s 15th hole, he knew the course’s toughest stretch of holes — 15 through 18 — awaited him. Cibula got off to a great start, playing those four holes even before heading back to the course’s first hole.

Cibula shot par on each hole through the course’s third hole. On the ensuing holes, after a bogey pushed Cibula to one over, he birdied the course’s sixth hole to drop back down to even par through 10 holes played.

Holes 7 and 8 proved tough for the junior, back-to-back bogeys kept him at +2 through the course’s 11th hole.

Before the Tigers’ home tournament, Cibula said he expected a score of 78 or lower would put him in contention at the top of the leaderboard at Thursday’s high-level 19-team tournament. It was one of the toughest of the season, with top teams from both the High Country and the Front Range. At +2 heading into his final three holes of the day, Cibula was staring at a 74 if he played even par back to the clubhouse.

With that in mind, Cibula made a birdie putt on 12 after sticking a shot to within 15 feet of the pin. Cibula followed that up with another birdie on 13 before bogeying 14 to finish at +1 – just one stroke behind Thurday’s champion Suchit Sharma (even, 72) of Lafayette’s Peak to Peak Charter School.

Despite that bogey on his final hole, Cibula’s 73 propelled Summit to a four–player varsity team score of 247, as Summit sophomores Zack Carleton and Ricky Ahlquist shot an 86 and 88 respectively, while freshman Jackson True shot a 103. The Summit A team’s 247 placed them sixth of 19 teams on Thursday. Mullen High School won the meet with a score of 226.

“I was hitting my driver pretty good at the beginning,” Carleton said, “and my slice came out a bit. But then I was hitting my irons really good, had a few birdie putts and a lot of pars. I was pretty happy with my day.”

The Tigers’ B team on Thursday shot a 288, led by freshman Michael Cheek’s 97. Fellow freshman Everett Gillett shot a 98 while freshman Rece Greff and senior Brennan Moroco shot a 102 and 106, respectively.

Summit High junior Ryley Cibula tees off at the Keystone Ranch Invitational on Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Keystone Ranch Golf Course in Keystone.
Liz Copan /

All that said, Thursday belonged to Cibula. After the round, he beamed with excitement at the possibility of winning a competition outright for the first time in his high school career following his tie for first place with a round of 77 at Vail Golf Club earlier this week.

“Today, I had a totally different mindset than I ever had before,” Cibula said. “I think that’s part of the reason why I went low. …Going onto my 16th (hole) I was like, ‘I want to win this.'”

Cibula set himself up for his 73 after his round reached rock bottom in the middle of the par-4 eighth hole. After a bad bogey on the seventh hole, where he missed a 3-foot putt, Cibula found trouble on 8 after a drive into the fairway. Playing from a pretty good lie, Cibula chunked his sand wedge before chunking his next shot with a 60-degree wedge. Cibula then, lying three strokes on the par-4, landed on the green. Needing to sink a 20-foot putt to prevent a double bogey, Cibula drained it to gain momentum heading into his final stretch.

“That set the tone for the last six holes,” Cibula said.

The Summit High golf team plays in the Keystone Ranch Invitational on Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Keystone Ranch Golf Course in Keystone.
Liz Copan /

Those final six holes included Cibula’s best hole of the day, his 17th hole, the course’s 13th. Cibula drove his tee shot to a perfect spot in the fairway before his 3-wood put him in the bunker. One stroke later, up on the green, Cibula drained a putt for his second of back-to-back birdies.

Looking ahead, Sorenson is confident Cibula is not only playing some of the best golf of his life and Tiger career, but thoroughly enjoying it as well. And with next Thursday’s regionals and (potentially) the Oct. 7-8 state tournament on the horizon for Cibula, Sorenson knows a round at even par, or even below it, is in the cards for Cibula.

“It’s well within his ability yet this year to accomplish some of those goals,” Sorenson said. “…I like to see kids — I like to see anybody — enjoying what they are doing without the limitations of preconceived results. He would have been disappointed if he would have shot 75.

“But he’d have still been happy.”

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