Four golfers punch their ticket for state
ASPEN, Colorado ” A week ago, Vail Mountain School golf coach Ross Sappenfield had no idea where the state tournament was.
Sappenfield and VMS sophomore Alex Bard happily have to do some research now.
On a very rough day for all involved in Aspen, Bard posted a 95, thought he was done for the season and was getting back into his gym clothes when Sappenfield told him to get ready for a possible playoff.
“I had to rush to get back into all my golf stuff in 20 seconds, just to find out that I didn’t have to play in a playoff,” Bard said. “I was kind of mad because I thought it had been all for nothing.”
Correct, there was no playoff for him. That’s because 97 was the number for a playoff and Bard’s 95 had him on his way to the Spring Valley Golf Club in Elizabeth for the 3A state tourney in two weeks.
“I’m not sure yet,” Bard said, when asked how he was feeling. “I didn’t think a 95 would ever make it to state.”
It’s big for both Bard and the school in its first year back in CHSAA golf. Not only is Bard going to state, but Sappenfield, who coached the Gore Rangers back in their first incarnation in the 1990s, was pretty sure and the Vail Daily confirmed by what records it has that the sophomore from VMS is the first Gore Ranger to make state.
Bard wasn’t the only one making plans for Oct. 6-7. While he’s at Spring Valley, Eagle Valley’s Jamison Bair and Battle Mountain’s Dustin Martin and Cameron Brown will be at the 4A tournament at Yampa after coming out of Tuesday’s regional tourney.
Bard understandably thought that a 95 making state was a pipe dream. But Bard didn’t have a view of the whole field. The tees got moved back from Mondays practice round, making dialing in one’s clubs difficult. And the greens were much slicker than Monday, causing adventures in putting.
Throw in some wind and the tournament jitters which are felt in everything from the average men’s league day to a major and 95 was good to go.
“He thought I was kidding about a possible playoff,” Sappenfield said. “He knows is capable of better scores, but that’s what the conditions were at regionals.”
Bard nearly had some company. Junior A.J. Yanke shot a 98 and was just one shot short of being a state alternate.
And for Bard and Sappenfield, Spring Valley is a public golf course in Elizabeth. CHSAA.org says it will be playing 6,973 yards with what appears to be a combination of mostly the black tees with a few blues. Water comes into play really on four holes.
Eagle Valley’s Jamison Bair is back at the 4A state tournament for the third-straight year. He just wishes he would have some company when Class 4A’s best convene at the Yampa Golf Club near Craig.
Bair shot an 80, overcoming some bumps on his back nine, to punch his ticket, while teammate Bryan Brennan is an alternate for the tournament with an 82.
“I kind of figured I made it. I was really hoping Bryan would make it, too,” Bair said. “He’ll go to state, and hopefully, someone can’t play.”
Bair started on the 10th in Aspen and cruised to a “front nine” 38. Then hole Nos. 1-4 struck, with three bogeys and a triple on No. 3.
Bair went over the hole and left on the par-3 third. He tried to chip down to the green which sloped away from him and his golf ball trickled off the green. Bair’s second attempt made the green, but he three-putted.
From there, previous tournament experience kicked in.
“I guess I just went into it focusing on every shot,” Bair said.
That approach paid off, as Bair had birdie putts on his final five holes. None of those fell, but he was left with easy putts for par and a third trip to state.
Meanwhile, Brennan struggled with consistency in his round.
“He said, ‘Tom, I have three great shots and one bad one,'” Eagle Valley coach Tom Buzbee said. “It was kind of like he was running on the race track with a flat tire. He wasn’t going to give in on anything, but it was clear he was a little bit out of sync.”
Martin gets company
Using a driver and a pitching wedge is for the weak.
Well, it worked for Battle Mountain’s Dustin Martin, who carded a 79 and made state for the second consecutive year.
The senior broke his pitching wedge at last week’s tournament in Aspen, and replaced the club with a 56-degree instead. As for the driver, who needs it, when you’re crushing your 3-wood?
The good news is that Martin will have company at the Yampa Golf Club at state in two weeks because Cameron Brown also made it Tuesday with an 81.
“It was lonely last year,” Martin joked. “It will be good to have someone to talk to.”
Martin parred the first and escaped his personal nemesis ” the par-4, 425-yard second ” with a bogey. From there, he got into a nice groove including a birdie on the seventh. The only problem was, with the exception of the seventh, his birdie putts weren’t dropping.
“I’m really glad I’m going back to state,” said Martin, who had a pair of 94s at last year’s state tournament. “I want to redeem myself. Last year was ridiculous. It was like I never played golf before.”
Brown, in a way, is relearning the game. He suffered a right-wrist injury a few weeks and has ben about 8-10 strokes off his average since. Nevertheless, he toughed his way through regionals Tuesday to join Martin at state.
“You’ve got to play through it,” Brown said. “I think I overcompensated, though. I lost some distance and started hitting the ball higher because I have a different swing plane. When you’re not hitting the ball as far, you have to put that into play.”
Brown shook off some ugliness on third ” a bad tee shot and the ensuing shot into the drink ” to card a steady 81.
Brown will be taking the week off before preparing for the state tournament Oct. 6-7.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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