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September 17, 2013
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Vail Mountain School takes second at regionals

GYPSUM — Lots of blue and white is going to the 3A state golf tournament in two weeks at the Pueblo Country Club and hopefully a little bit more. Meanwhile, Eagle Valley has a surprise entry.

Such are the tales from Tuesday’s regional golf tournament at Gypsum Creek Golf Course. The Vail Mountain School finished second in the 3A ranks with 235 strokes, just one behind Aspen. More importantly, the Gore Rangers qualified three — Harrison Alonzo, Dylan Hardenbergh and Oliver Pesso — for state. Vail Christian’s Cooper Gould took top individual-medalist honors with a 71, the low for both 3A and 4A, and will join the VMS crew in Pueblo. And Eagle Valley freshman Tanner Caldarola carded an 80, and will be the county’s lone representative in the 4A state tournament Hiwan Country Club in Evergreen.

It’s not a skiing trophy

Yes, the Vail Mountain School’s home course is the Vail Golf Club, but the Gore Rangers really like Gypsum Creek.

VMS took home only its third golf trophy, a plaque for second place in the 3A regional, in the school’s history. And, yep, all three are from Gypsum. Anyone want to move state to Gypsum Creek? VMS casts three votes in the affirmative.

Harrison Alonzo is back for his third trip. He was playing in the last group to go out, and was a bit all over the place. Since the 3A tourney went out on 10, Alonzo birdied No. 11, double-bogeyed the par-5 13th and managed two birdies on Nos. 14 and 16 on the mesa.

The senior shot a 35 on the course’s harder back nine and then had 39 on the easier front. That makes complete sense. Alonzo had a precarious stretch on hole Nos. 3, 5 and 6, two bogeys and a double but rallied for an important tweeter on No. 7.

“I’m pretty happy,” Alonzo said. “I thought it was going to be my first under-par round, but I’m pretty happy, It brings my scoring average down to a solid 74.”

If you think he’s joking about the scoring average, he’s not. Alonzo analyzes his game more than The Golf Channel breaks down Tiger Woods’.

Hardenbergh was the good surprise for VMS. The freshman shot an 80, and punched his ticket. He shook off the regional jitters and had birdies on Nos. 11 and 1.

“Not surprised, but happy,” Hardenbergh said.

The rest of the Gore Rangers seemed more pumped for Hardenbergh than Hardenbergh himself. He is the first VMS freshman to qualify for state.

“I thought I had a pretty good chance,” Hardenbergh said. “It was pretty cool. I actually thought I shot an 81.”

First of all, congratulations to VMS math teacher Oliver Compton. Hardenbergh did count up an 80 and signed the card correctly. Second, 81 got 3A golfers into some dicey territory.

And that would bring us to Oliver Pesso, who did shoot and 81 and ended up nabbing the ninth and final individual berth to state.

Pesso started well on his front nine, which included the mesa. He dropped a 30-foot putt on No. 16 for a trip to the aviary, and was even through seven holes. Then, it went horribly wrong.

He bogeyed No. 17, doubled Nos. 18 and 1, dropped another stroke on No. 2 and tripled the par-3 third. As Pesso was talking through this litany of travails after the round, VMS’ Sean Weller uttered the line of the day.

“At this point in time, he was not in his best mood,” Weller deadpanned.

“I knew I had a par-5 coming up on No. 13,” Pesso said. “I knew that was a good time to turn it around, get a par and start over. From there on out I made good pars.”

The pars stopped the bleeding, and Pesso is state-bound.

This is the first time VMS, coached by Ross Sappenfield, will be bringing three to state.

“I’m so excited,” Alonzo said. “Instead of just me and Sapp in 14-person van, it’s going to me and two other guys and Sapp.”

We assume there will still be plenty of leg room.

Good news, bad news

Vail Christian’s Gould was the only golfer in red numbers Tuesday. His 71 would have won 4A, if, for some reason, he feels like transferring to a bigger school.

He bogeyed his first hole, the 10th, but kept it nice and steady. With a birdie on the monster par-5 15th and a bogey on the 16, he fired a 37 on the front. The back did not start well with a three-putt bogey on No. 1, but the fireworks were coming.

He birdied No. 6, a par-4, and then eagled No. 7, a par-5. The latter was a driver, a 5-iron and a 40-foot bomb of a putt. At that point, Gould knew he was in good shape in relation to the field, but had to keep it together on the final two holes.

“I was just thinking stay aggressive, because if I get defensive and think par, I’ll probably bogey,” Gould said.

No. 8 was a user-friendly par for the Saints junior. But then he got into a little trouble on his approach to No. 9. He got over Gypsum Creek, but had short-sided himself in a grass bunker near the green.

“Actually, chipping’s my best part, so all the nerves went away when I got that wedge in my hands,” Gould said. “Seventeen and 18, full-swing shots? Yeah, I was nervous.”

Gould deftly got up-and-down for a par and made it two in a row for Vail Christian as far as winning top-medalist honors at regionals. Robby Bowles did it last year with a 75 down in Cortez.

And Bowles, even though he graduated last spring, will continue to be in the minds of the Saints. That’s because Parker Poage (82) and Tony Clark (83) just missed the cut and are the first and second alternates, respectively, for Pueblo.

Back to Bowles, before he won last year, he made an art of qualifying for the state tournament as an alternate in 2010 and 2011. While past performance does not guarantee future results, Vail Christian is hoping that Poage and/or Clark just might get a ticket yet to state.

Cinderella story

This was meant to be a rebuilding year for Eagle Valley. Coach Tom Buzbee was running his young team through the paces of varsity golf, and then next year, the Devils would send someone to state.

But at regionals — a one-day shot for everyone — strange (in a good way) things can happen. Devils freshman Caldarola put up a career-best 80, and he’s one of the 11 4A individuals who got state invites Tuesday.

“I was pretty nervous the first couple of holes and then I just started getting more comfortable,” he said. “I wasn’t really thinking about my score. I was just playing it shot-for-shot.”

Caldarola experienced a little bit of everything during his round, but he posted his 80 early in the afternoon, and it stood.

“I was pretty psyched, stunned, too,” Caldarola said.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Apr 1, 2014 05:30PM Published Sep 19, 2013 01:57PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.