OK, it’s not a tradition unlike any other like the Masters in Augusta, Georgia.
But the boys golf season on the Western Slope always starts at Battlement Mesa in Parachute with the admonition — don’t go left on Nos. 11, 12 and 13.
Nerves and birdies should be abundant today. Whether you’re a returning veteran or a rookie, the first tournament of the season for Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Vail Christian and Vail Mountain is a big deal. Also look for the gents to shake off those nerves as the tourney usually plays from Battlement Mesa’s silver tees (6,037 yards), making the par-5s reachable.
Vail Christian and Vail Mountain should continue their fun rivalry from last fall. Both teams went back and forth at assorted tournaments with the Gore Rangers besting the Saints at regionals and Vail Christian nipping VMS at state.
Vail Christian graduated two senior state-qualifiers (Parker Poage and Christian Bohren) while VMS bid goodbye to one, Harrison Alonzo.
The defending regional champion is back, though, for the Saints. Cooper Gould is now a senior. He and Tony Clark are the elders statesmen of the squad. Clark fired a 73 and Gould a 75 at this tournament last year, leading the Saints to a 3A win in Parachute last year. (The 2A schools are considered 3A for golf.)
Saints coach Chris Coleman has Caleb Chicoine penciled in for the No. 3 spot. Depending on paperwork, always a problem this time of year, Mason Daniels or Max Phannenstiel will be the team’s fourth.
Either way, the Saints should have reinforcements coming with Craig McGuckin returning to action next week.
“I do believe that we have the talent to put together another team for state,” Coleman said. “Our goal is always to play consistently throughout the season but to be able to field a team for state.”
VMS would certainly like to join the Saints at the Northeastern Golf Course in Sterling. Oliver Pesso and Dylan Hardenbergh are state returnees. Sean Weller, Ben Barron and Tyler Hancock round out today’s five.
The Gore Rangers have been working on their short game this week, in addition to tryouts, and there is a quiet confidence in Camp VMS.
“I don’t want to measure success, by how many we qualify for state,” VMS coach Ross Sappenfield said. “It’s how well they improve and how well the team works together. With a cohesive hard-working group, we could advance pretty far.”
Vail Christian and Vail Mountain should be in the hunt all season for the 3A Slope title with Aspen and Basalt.
Battle Mountain golf brings back three seniors in Tanner Crisofulli, Ryan Hanson and Jack Nichols. Master Crisofulli, who should be the team’s No. 1, won’t be back in town until Wednesday’s tournament at Gypsum Creek, so sophomores Miles Joersz, Taylor Staughton and Creek Kamby will be at Battlement Mesa with Hanson and Clark.
Also look out for juniors Mycah Huang and Grifen Connor, who played their way onto the team this week in tryouts.
Down in Gypsum, sophomore Tanner Caldarola was the huge surprise at regionals, shooting an 80 to qualify for last year’s state tournament as a freshman. That’s a big bonus as the Devils are the young side. Freshman Michael Sandoval and Carter Coleman, and sophomores Aidan Sokup and Dalton Bartholy get the call today.
As is traditional, Eagle Valley coach Tom Buzbee won’t call them the black, red, white and silver teams this year, but he said he will play different players in different tournaments, depending on how the competition is going during practice.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.