SHERIDAN — Kirby Coe-Kirkham has one thing on his mind entering his final season as a Sheridan High School golfer: a state title.
Coe-Kirkham has tasted a championship in years past. He’s sniffed it; he’s reached out and touched it. But he has never hauled it in and called it his own.
Some may show sympathy for the young golfer. He spent his first three seasons chasing Riverton’s Easton Paxton, a four-time Wyoming 4A state champ and current North Carolina State team member.
Coe-Kirkham finished runner-up to Paxton at each of the last two state tournaments. But Coe-Kirkham won’t spend much time sympathizing with himself. He has work to do.
“Really, I’ve got the same mindset,” he said at practice earlier this week. “I want to work hard for the next four or five weeks, get that state championship.”
The Sheridan senior is constantly improving his game, hitting the range and making tweaks here and there to separate himself from the pack.
But Coe-Kirkham’s work began long ago, and he’s hoping to draw momentum from the effort he’s put forth over the past year.
Coe-Kirkham won four of six tournaments during the 2016 fall season, and he shot three-straight 69s during the spring season before taking home the conference title in May.
Hoping to keep the hot streak going, he spent his summer attacking fairways and greens. Most of his time was spent competing in tournaments in Colorado against some of the region’s top golfers, and he got a taste of really-high caliber golf at the Junior America’s Cup last month in Washington.
“It’s really good to just open my eyes to where I need to be to really compete,” Coe-Kirkham said of his busy summer. “The only way you can better at golf is by tournament experience, and it’s been good to play against guys that I’m really competing against every day and knowing that I actually can compete with them.”
The Junior America’s Cup didn’t go as swimmingly as the Sheridan golfer might have hoped. He finished 17-over par, which tied him for 56th at the three-day event. But he was forced to ride the undulating waves that come with the sport, and three birdies in his final round certainly showed the young golfer that he’s on the brink of challenging some of the region’s best, or even beyond.
For now, though, the focus shifts back to his home state. With just five meets on the schedule for the fall season, the summer experience could be the jumpstart Coe-Kirkham needs to soar past his Wyoming foes.
“He’s been runner-up the last two years at state, so I’m sure his goal and our goal is we’d love to see him be the state champ this year,” Sheridan head coach Larry Martoglio confidently admitted.
“That’s some great experience and a lot of pressure,” the coach added. “Everything he has done last summer and this summer has put him in a situation, he’s getting some attention from some Division I schools. So we’ll see where he goes from here.”
Paxton may be competing across the country, now, but Coe-Kirkham’s path to a title is all but clear. Plenty of the state’s best return this fall, including all three of Coe-Kirkham’s Team Wyoming teammates at the JAC — Logan Johnson, Jorden James and John McGinley. McGinley finished two strokes behind Coe-Kirkham for third at last year’s state meet.
No matter who sits across the tee box from him, though, Coe-Kirkham’s focus remains internal. Consistency is key.
“My mindset tries not the change from tournament to tournament,” he said. “I like to go in and think that if I play well, I’m going to win.”
Expectations are high for the senior to cap off his high school career, but it’s not solely about him. He hopes to be the catalyst for the Broncs and sweeten the deal with two state titles — one as an individual and another with his teammates.
Sheridan hasn’t won a boys golf team championship since 2011 when it was led by eventual University of Wyoming golfer Kamrin Allen. Since then, though, the Broncs’ top finish has been fourth — including last fall — and they’ve fallen out of the top five three times.
Coe-Kirkham hopes to change that as he builds on the momentum from a year’s worth of heavy-duty preparation.
Taste-tests no longer fill the menu for Coe-Kirkham. Now it’s time to gobble up the trophy and leave zero leftovers.