Updated: July 26, 2014 at 9:49 pm
There's something special about sports competitions that come down to the wire.
Saturday's finale of the Pikes Peak Amateur fit the bill - just ask golfers Stephen Cook, Dylan Mitchell or any member of the 20-plus person entourage the two had following them through the last nine of 36 holes that made up the championship flight finale.
Coming down the stretch, the UCCS teammates executed their every move as if it were worth more than the 64 years of tradition living through the Patty Jewett clubhouse. It was match play at its finest, and it was on the stage of one of Colorado Springs' biggest annual tournaments.
"It's such a blast to play good golf like that," Mitchell said. "To push each other back and forth like that was just so fun and to do it against a buddy who's a teammate is even better. This is definitely a tournament I'll remember."
But what ended as a neck-and-neck battle didn't begin that way.
Mitchell surrendered seven of the first nine holes from the duo's opening round that took off at 8 a.m. He was able to claim two of his own on the prairie side of Patty Jewett, but was still five behind Cook in a winner-take-hole setup at the break before resuming again at noon for a second 18.
"The way things were going, I was thinking to myself that we all might be out of here by lunchtime. Nobody likes to play those types of rounds, on either end," Cook said. "But then you could see him buckle down and start to play his game. That's the kind of player he is and I've seen it before at UCCS, so I knew what I was in for."
Mitchell came back from the intermission looking like a different athlete. He knocked in five birdies to win three holes before hitting the midway point of the second round, pulling back to within two. The ensuing nine holes had both players competing at their highest level, knocking in 40-foot putts and pinching chip shots from 150 yards out to within feet of the pin.
"I can't complain, I gave it a fight," Mitchell said. "He played great in the first round and I played well in the second. I think we played well for UCCS and that's one of the bigger things to take out of it all."
After dropping two of the final three holes, Cook finally edged Mitchell on the 36th hole that plays up to the clubhouse. As the two shook hands, the crowd from atop the green and 15 golf carts lining the cart path gave a clap for the theatrical conclusion of the Pikes Peak Amateur.
"That crowd gave you a feel of what it's like to play at a higher level, which is what you strive for," Cook said. "You use it as motivation. It still hasn't set in yet, but that one felt like we're five or six good rounds from playing on TV."