ASPEN – Once St. Mary’s Academy junior Maddy Bante made a comfy birdie on the par-5 7th hole, the pedal was to the metal.

The defending Class 3A girls golf state champion played the par 5’s 3-under en route to shooting a 2-under-par 69 to defend her title and pace the Wildcats to their third straight team championship. Breaking par and winning a couple of titles made the final round of the state tournament a Mega Bonus Wednesday for Bante.

“It feels great again,” Bante said. “It feels great to be here with my team and to be here with my family. It was another really special experience.”

She bested Peak to Peak’s Noelle Thompson, a good friend, by 11 strokes and went 2-under on the back to create the distance between them. Her swing felt confident enough that after a left tee shot on the par-5 15th, she still felt like she could take on the green, even with some water protection in front of it.

“Oh I was going for that green,” she said. “I had a vision in my head and it didn’t play out exactly how I wanted, but I knew I could get up close to the green. I had a swing.”

Off to the side, her parents weren’t so sure. Pleading for safe play, they watched as the ball carried the water and landed in a spot where she easily got up and down for birdie.

But not everything was ideal. A rogue photographer caught her off guard in her backswing on No. 3. She saved par. Her tee shot on the par-4 12th ended up long and left of the green. She fatted her chip shot but it bounced off the cart path and ended up on the green for a birdie putt. There were plenty of things that could have gone wrong, but she battled through every single one of them.

“Every single person is going to have missed shots and missed putts,” Bante said. “I had one roll up a tree and almost hit me in the head. There are always going to be different things.”

From the team standpoint, this was an emotional ride for the Wildcats. After losing key players from last year’s team, they totaled 521 strokes as a team which was also 11 shots better than second place.

(Dan Mohrmann/

“I loved their determination and motivation to three-peat,” Ann Wolta-Blackstone said. “They gave it their best shot and they took it shot by shot.”

Aspen and Peak to Peak finished for a tie for second. It was monumental for both programs as it was the best finish for each team to date.

“After yesterday, it was fun just to be in contention,” Skiers coach Shannon Day said. “And then we were there. We were tied for first. It became something different.”

Day feels like it could be the spark that truly ignites the program. The boys have seen success in recent years and this spring showed that the girls could add to that component as well.

“Yesterday we talked about home course advantage but there are other factors,” Day said. “We don’t play outside except for tournaments almost the entire spring season. The girls should play in the fall. It’s the most unfair and inequitable thing happening. The boys get the whole summer to prepare. But what we did [this year] was we went on a spring break trip to prepare. We took this seriously.”

And next year the expectations will be higher. Sophomore Lenna Persson combined to shoot 164 and finish fourth. Junior Brooke O’Sullivan combined for 169 and finished sixth.

Aspen makes its money as a ski town, but if the Skiers aren’t careful, it could become a high school golf power.

(Dan Mohrmann/