Despite the way the best players can make it look easy at times, golf is really hard. Pueblo West’s Noah Wagner is a prime example of how fickle the game can be depending the course and the level of talent in the field of players.

Make no mistake, the Cyclones senior has a great shot at winning the Class 4A state championship. He has been among the best players in Colorado since he first stepped on the fairways at Desert Hawk as a freshman and helped the Cyclones claim the 4A team title.

This summer he got some big help in that championship quest in the form of a little humility. Wagner qualified for the US Junior Amateur, which was held at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon. A destination spot for countless players in America, Wagner got the chance to battle two its 18-hole tracks in Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails.

He shot a 5-over-par 76 the first day at Trails and an 80 the second day at Dunes. That put him at 13-over for the tournament which was outside the cutline to advance to match play. It was an experience he’ll never forget and it was also an experience that will help him in his 2022 state championship quest.

“It makes (high school golf) feel easy because the competition is so much better and the courses are so much harder,” Wagner said. “I shouldn’t say this feels easy, but it definitely gives me some confidence.”

In his first outing of the season, Wagner played in the two-day tournament hosted by Montrose and Grand Junction. He shot 74 at the Bridges and 80 at Battlement Mesa.

He looked much more at ease in his second tournament of the year when he dipped into red numbers and shot 68 at Valley Hi in Colorado Springs. He was one of seven players to end their day under par and he was two strokes behind the winning score of 66 which came from 5A players in Arapahoe’s Mac Buckley and Grant Juergens.

As a student of the game, Wagner knows that not every tournament will result in a win and that in order to stand atop any leaderboard, the work ethic has to match the desire.

Luckily for him, that’s a problem he must worry about as the work ethic comes to him naturally.

“He gets all his stuff out of the dirt,” Cyclones coach Dan Sanchez said. “He grinds and he’s doing it seven days a week. He’s put in all the time and now he just needs to let himself be successful.”

He finished tied for 10th at last year’s state tournament at Denver City Park. He finished eight shots off Windsor’s Brentyn Palz and considering he gave the course 12 shots with either bogeys or double-bogeys, playing a championship level of golf for two rounds is certainly a possibility for him.

Especially after playing his way into the US Junior Am which brings together a field of the best junior players in the country.

“It gives me confidence in my game,” Wagner said. “I know I can go out there and make something happen.”