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Devils win regionals

And, oh, by the way, did we mention that the entire Eagle Valley girls golf team is coming back next year?

“It’s even going to be greater next year because the whole team is going to be seniors,” the Devils’ Mandy Preston said. “We’re doing really well. I’m really happy with it.”

Next year can wait, though. The Devils are looking just fine, thank you, in 2003. The quartet of Charly Hoehn, Erin Sterkel, Preston and Miranda Cox proved that Tuesday at Cotton Ranch at the 4A Western Slope Regional Golf Tournament, winning the whole shooting match with a score of 286, well ahead of second-place Moffat County (311).

With the win – the team’s third-straight regional title – comes a team berth in the 4A State Tournament, to be held May 19-20 at the West Woods Golf Course in Aurora. More excitingly, the Devils will take the full cast of four, as opposed to last year.

“Last year, the girls were disappointed that they only got to take three girls to state as a team,” Devils coach Edy Patton said. “This year, they’re excited they get to take four.

“These girls are strong competitors. They have a competitive spirit. These aren’t recreational golfers. I expect that they’ll be playing golf the rest of their lives. They’ll be club champions, these girls.”

Eagle Valley had been the prohibitive favorite coming into the tournament. The Devils demolished the field in last month’s regular-season tournament, but all that mattered was Tuesday when it came to a state berth.

“They’re pretty comfortable playing here, but, even when you’re comfortable, you can still have the pressure of the outcome overwhelm you,” Patton said. “The girls put a lot of expectations on themselves. That, in itself can trip you up. We didn’t get the scores we had hoped for, but it did the trick.”

Hoehn certainly had some tricks up her sleeve. She led the Devils with an 83, including a blistering 39 on the back nine. Hoehn played well on the mesa, a place at Cotton Ranch where scores can balloon quickly, including a big par on the menacing sixth.

The back nine for Hoehn quickly turned into a dual for medalist honors with Aspen’s Kristin Walla.

“It was pretty intense for a while because at about the 13th hole is where we realized that we’re running out of holes and one of us had to decide who wanted it,” Hoehn said.

Hoehn did her part birdieing the par-5’s on 13 and 16. But Walla closed the match out with a beautiful shot from 145 yards out on 18 that stuck the green. Hoehn was disappointed with the outcome, but her coach was plenty proud of her pupil.

“Mentally, she was strong throughout the whole day,” Patton said. “She was focused. She was on task. She was looking for opportunities throughout the whole day, looking for birdie opportunities and holding on for pars.”

Preston carded a 100, which included a beautiful birdie on the tough fifth. There, she drilled her approach shot to within four feet of the hole and then canned the putt. A birdie on 15 also helped the cause.

“Mandy has been shooting in the 80s this year,” Patton said. “But for this course, that’s a strong round. She would have probably broken 100 today, which would have been awesome. She had some awesome birdies.”

Cox proved to be ever steady, posting a 103. She parred Nos. 12-15, as part of a strong finish.

“She lit it up on the back nine,” Patton said.

Sterkel didn’t have her best day, taking a few big numbers on the front nine. But, as any golfer knows, the key is to put it behind you and keep plugging. She did and ended with a 104.

“I am so proud of her. She showed a lot of leadership today,” Patton said. “With greatness comes great responsibility. She held her head up high today. That shows a lot of leadership and I’m really proud of her.”

Next up is state for the Devils and the team has already scoped out West Woods.

“Short game’s always a great place to work on. We’ll probably work a little bit of consistency off the tee box because it is such a long course,” Patton said. “There’s some par-3’s there where they’re going to have to use 5-wood. We’ll need to work on that.”

Lip-outs: Cotton Ranch did itself proud when it came to being a tough test of golf. The girls played from the men’s gold tees, which measure 6,048 yards. … It was definitely a windy day at the Pete Dye course, but local golfers can attest to the fact that there have been windier days down at Cotton Ranch. … Moffat County finished second with 311 strokes, followed by Aspen (314), Montrose (335) and Rifle (337). … Battle Mountain also participated in the tournament. Courtney Davis led the Huskies with a 129, followed by Melissa Hines and Samantha Davis, who both shot 144.

Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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