Four Vail Valley golfers head to state
The Highlands Ranch Golf Club and Cougar Canyon might as well be Pinehurst No. 2 or Bethpage Black for the next two days.
The 4A and 3A state tournaments begin today with the opening 18. At Highlands Ranch, site of the 4A tournament, Eagle Valley’s Austin Fahrenholtz gets the honors of teeing of first among the locals at 9:42 a.m. Battle Mountain’s Brady McDonald, follows at 10 a.m. and Cameron Brown is last in the chute at 10:27 a.m.
Down south in Trinidad, Vail Mountain’s A.J. Yanke starts his 3A state tournament at 9:24 a.m. at Cougar Canyon.
Based on today’s scores, CHSAA will set the start list for Tuesday’s final round.
A breakdown of the four locals at state:
This has been the goal all season and now the senior is here.
Ironically, it was sophomore McDonald, Brown’s teammate who had played Highlands Ranch before everyone else did last week.
“The greens are really soft and the fairways are hard.” McDonald said.
That would seem to be a good recipe for Brown, who pounds his driver and should get some nice roll on those aforementioned hard fairways. And everybody likes soft greens.
“It’s hitting fairways and greens,” he said. “I know I’m putting well. At Steamboat (for regionals), I hit very fairway and green on the front and shot 1-under. It could have been better.”
CHSAA is setting up the Hale Irwin-designed course to play long. The 4A field will be playing from the tips for all but four holes (Nos. 1, 5, 10 and 17). Give or take a tee-box placement, Highlands Ranch will be playing 7,006 yards.
CHSAA is not changing par (72) for the tournament, so there are still four par-5s (Nos. 2, 9, 11 and 18). When Brown has won tournaments this year, he’s chewed up the three-shotters.
The Western Slope regional champ, Brown is playing with Greeley Central’s Michael Lee with whom he was partnered in last summer’s Junior America’s Cup in California.
The Scotty Cameron is staying in the bag for the state tournament because the putter behaved very well at regionals.
Not surprisingly, Fahrenholtz has spent the last week or so primarily putting at Eagle Ranch’s practice facility or Sunday at Highlands Ranch.
“It’s just getting down the speed,” Fahrenholtz sad.
While his putting has been the story this year, Fahrenholtz is thrilled to be at the big show. Now a junior, Fahrenholtz lost out on an intra-team playoff to qualify for regionals his freshman year and just played poorly at regionals last year.
“You think about it because the top-60 golfers in the state are here,” Fahrenholtz said. “My irons feel good. I’ve been hitting them well all year. I’d like to shoot in the high 70s.”
The sophomore isn’t too worried about nerves at today’s state tournament.
“I usually don’t get nervous when people are watching me,” McDonald said.
With that out of the way, McDonald and Brown played together Sunday at Highlands, and is the “veteran” of the bunch, having played there previously.
Understandably, McDonald is psyched to be at state as a mere sophomore, but the pre-state routine has been a mature one.
“I’ve just been hitting a lot of balls, putting and chipping,” McDonald said. “It’s mostly been the short game. I have to putt well.”
At Cougar Canyon down in Trinidad, Yanke and the 3A field will be playing from the blues, which is a good thing.
Otherwise, the par-5, 15th would be playing 693 yards from the tips. This way, it’s a mere 629 yards.
“Omigosh, that is ridiculous,” Yanke said, adding some humor. “I’m looking forward to that being a par-6.”
As Yanke found out in Sunday’s practice round, that hole is quite a bit downhill, yet it’s not likely that many will be reaching that one in two. Yanke and his coach, Ross Sappenfield, sat down last week and plotted out some goals. Among those for Yanke is breaking 80 at the Jack Nicklaus course.
“Mostly, I’m just going to play it like Mr. Sappenfield taught us,” Yankee said. “At the beginning of each hole, you just map it out and find the safe spaces. I have to get it in the fairways.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.