Local prep golfers open strong in Grand Junction
GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – Battle Mountain tied golf powerhouse Cortez Tuesday, then lost a playoff that was stranger than an episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley both opened their golf seasons Tuesday at Grand Junction’s Tiara Rado golf course.
Battle Mountain and Cortez tied at 226 after 18 holes, forcing the deja vu playoff in which the top players from both teams – Battle Mountain’s Michael Wilhelm and Cortez’s Brian Grubbs – played the 303-yard 18th hole three times. They both parred it the first two times with some great shotmaking and a couple miracles from behind the green. The third trip down the 18th wasn’t as kind to Wilhelm, while Grubbs nailed it for a birdie.
“I’m very pleased with my guys, and they’re actually capable of playing a little bit better,” said Cassie Desmone, Battle Mountain coach.
Wilhelm played well and said Tiara Rado was in great condition, but like all good golfers says there’s room for improvement.
“I had several putts that went in, and that helped,” he said. “I was disappointed that I hit bogey in three of the last four holes.”
Battle Mountain packed four players into the 70s: Wilhelm at 73, Brady McDonald at 76, Dillon McDonald at 77, and Andrew Sady at 79 with a 65-foot putt on the eighth hole for par. Mike Jones finished at 80.
Eagle Valley finished ninth in Monday’s 25-team field. Nick Bontempo finished fifth overall with a 72.
“We’re satisfied, but we think we can do better,” said Tom Buzbee, Eagle Valley coach.
Grand Junction is in the high desert and receives less than 9 inches of precipitation annually. A light beer and a Bill Clinton alibi both hold more water.
So of course it rained enough Monday to wash the sins out of Sin City. Except they weren’t in Sin City, they were in Grand Junction. Instead of washing away the evidence of human indiscretion, the storms washed away Monday’s Grand Junction High School Tiger Invitational.
“It was a little disappointing because we were rained out for the first time in memory,” Buzbee said. “Western Colorado doesn’t get rainouts.”
It rained, the players got in about four holes, then it rained some more. They played five more holes and another storm front blew through. Four rain delays in five hours. Grand Junction was drenched with the most rain it had received in 109 years, according to the National Weather Service.
The tournament director decided it was either time to stand in the storm, hold up a 1 iron and tell that classic joke about how even God cannot hit a 1 iron, or it was time to get out of the rain.
They opted to play another day, which turned out to be Tuesday.
The migrated to Tiara Rado, a classic course that plays tight and technical.
“They have to hold back and that’s difficult for younger players,” Buzbee said. “They want to hit the ball hard.”
Bontempo learned that after playing tournaments there for two years. The Eagle Valley junior’s 72 was the team’s best and good for fifth overall Tuesday. Austin Fahrenholtz’s 85 was second for Eagle Valley.
Grand Junction’s Garret Fante won Tuesday’s tournament with a 69.
“I normally shoot six or seven over, but I was keeping it in the fairway and draining putts,” Bontempo said.
He chipped in a few times for par, and that helped. But mostly, it’s a matter of making it easy on himself, he said.
“I tried to play conservatively and keep myself in the fairway with two shots into the green and an easy two putt,” Bontempo said.
Tiara Rado was built in 1971, and plays along the base of the Colorado National Monument’s red cliffs. It demands that players use every club in their bags and punishes the impatient who try to overpower it. It’s one of Western Colorado’s most scenic courses, which is hard to appreciate when you’re looking for your ball. It is home to quail, pheasants, owls, herons, deer, rabbits, foxes and all three species of bluebirds found in the United States, which you might not notice because you’re still looking for your ball.
Buzbee was more or less happy with the way things went Tuesday.
“It’s a big field and it’s nice to play well,” he said. “It’s a strong field and we finished about where we thought we should.”