Devils’ Jones, Vail Mountain golf looking sharp as postseason nears
Vail Mountain School Invitational
Vail Golf Club
Vail Mountain School 250
Steamboat Springs 251
Buena Vista 252
Vail Christian 271
Eagle Valley 279
Battle Mountain 282
Moffat County 292
1. Dawson Holmes, Aspen, 74 (won scorecard playoff); 2. Barrett Jones, 74; 3. Kik Molitor, Buena Vista, 78; T4. Riley Chupp, Buena Vista, 79 and Beck Kuhlmar, 79; 6. Carter Zweig, Aspen; T7. Finn Sapp, Vail Mountain, 81 and Jordon Harrison, Vail Mountain, 81; 9. Carter Hall, Aspen, 82; T10. Ethan Aubert, Palisade, 83 and Jake Farrell, Palisade 83.
VAIL — Eagle Valley’s Barrett Jones and the host Gore Rangers led the way at Tuesday’s Vail Mountain School Invitational at the Vail Golf Club as the postseason looms in fewer than two weeks.
Jones carded a 74, tying him for top individual honors with Aspen’s Dawson Holmes. The latter won the tournament on a scorecard playoff, having the better back-nine score by one stroke.
Meanwhile, VMS as a team seems to be coming into form. The Gore Rangers finished second with 250 strokes behind only Aspen (236).
And the focus for all four local teams is coming down to the nitty-gritty. Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain go to regionals at the Bridges in Montrose, while 3A VMS and Vail Christian are off to Devil’s Thumb in Delta for regionals.
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It’s been a rather simple season for Jones. He’s finished first or second in his seven tournaments so far. He’s won at Cedaredge, Gypsum Creek and Aspen. He’s been second at Haymaker, Devil’s Thumb and Bookcliff.
Tuesday was a tie for first with Jones losing a scorecard playoff. While winning in the regular season is nice, being at the top of his game at regionals and — knock wood — state is the goal.
What makes Jones’ path so viable is that he was all over the place on Tuesday, and still was in the hunt. He had two double bogeys and four bogeys, while carding five birdies.
He can have ugly moments like doubling the straight-forward par-4 first, and make back ground quickly, like he did on the par-5 eighth. Yes, he had the wind at his back, but a 185-yard 9-iron to 15 feet of the pin displays a talent seldom seen.
Jones faced his most critical stretch of the day during the final five holes. He found the hazard on the left off the tee on the 14th, leading to a double. He rallied with birdies on 16 and 18, which were nice. But he deftly scrambled on the par-3 17th for par.
On that hole, he was in the hazard, again to the left, but found his ball. He was able to punch out his ball to 20 feet of the stick and sink the clutch par putt.
Everyone at state — Jones tied for seventh last year there — can make birdies in bunches. The ability to get out of trouble and save par come crunch time is vital for championship aspirations.
“I’ve definitely been swinging how I want to. I’m chipping pretty well,” Jones said. “What I need to do is start hitting more greens from about 120-200 yards. I need to be closer to the hole.
The senior said that 45-minute sessions at the range during the next two weeks will be on tap as he gears up for The Bridges.
Here they come again
Aspen won the tournament because the Skiers always seem to win in Vail. However, the hosts put up their best team performance of the season.
Junior Finn Sapp and senior Jordan Harrison both posted 81s, while sophomore Will Richey had an 88.
“It’s a big advantage, but you still have to put up the number,” VMS head coach Gary Pesso said of home-course advantage. “I think we’re going to have a real good shot of getting three (players) at state.”
Of course, the Gore Rangers have to shoot the numbers at regionals, but were Sapp and Harrison to replicate 81’s at Devil’s Thumb, those scores would easily make the cut at 3A. And Richey’s 88 could have him in the hunt.
The last time VMS sent three to state was Oliver Pesso, Ben Barron and Sean Weller back in 2015.
“I’d say it’s staying focused through all 18,” Harrison said of the prospect of regionals. “It’s hard to keep focus for long tournaments. Those last three holes, I slipped up and that cost me.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.