Vail Valley golfers find struggle, triumph at state
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – There are few happy endings at a state tournament of any sort.
And then there’s golf, which is a sport that, more than most, leads to self-examination and self-recrimination.
Even when golfers play well, there is always something that they could have done better.
Leave it to the youngest local participant at Monday and Tues-day’s state high school tournament – Brady McDonald – to sum up the lament of the golfer from the PGA Tour to a local men’s or women’s league.
“I thought it was going to be a good day, and then I got to the sec-ond hole,” the Battle Mountain sophomore said.
Huskies senior Cameron Brown entered the day tied for seventh after shooting an even-par 72 on Monday only to drop down to T21 with a 79, dashing his dreams of a state title at the 4A tourney at High-lands Ranch Golf Club. Eagle Val-ley’s Austin Fahrenholtz finished tied for 58th with a two-day score of 164 (81-83), followed by McDonald (T64) with a 165 (81-84).
And down at Cougar Canyon in Trinidad, the site of the 3A tourna-ment, Vail Mountain’s A.J. Yanke completed his senior season in 80th with a 204 under conditions that seemed like they would blow away the entire field.
Brown really liked his position after Day 1, and it’s not hard to see why. He not only was sitting at even par but was within six strokes of the leader, a very manageable deficit.
What’s more, Brown finished his first round with a back-nine 33 with three birdies in his last four holes. But Tuesday, Brown wasn’t quite right, hitting the ball a hair left, and that was the difference.
He bogeyed Nos. 2, 4 and 5, but the crusher was No. 7.
“I just tried to slow down my swing (off the tee) and hit it left out of bounds,” Brown said. “I did the same thing again on my next shot, and it went left but was in. I had to punch out. It was just not my day.” Brown quadrupled seven and finished the front nine with a 43. Despite that, he settled down nice-ly on the back for a 36.
Tuesday was a tough end for a season with very high expectations for the senior. The good news is that Brown is not done golfing. He plays this weekend at the Colorado Junior Golf Association’s Tourna-ment of Champions, which just happens to be at the storied Cherry Hills Country Club in Englewood.
The course has hosted two PGA Championships and three U.S. Opens, including the 1960 tourna-ment when Arnold Palmer over-came a seven-shot deficit to beat then-amateur Jack Nicklaus as well as Ben Hogan.
“I’m excited,” said Brown, who’s never played Cherry Hills. “I’m going to cherish it.”
Fahrenholtz’s much-maligned putter behaved at Highlands Ranch.
“It was good,” he said. “The only times I three-putted was when they really had some tough pin positions. I didn’t have many three-putts.”
Fahrenholtz felt he played well, hitting his woods and irons crisply, but just couldn’t translate that into scores as low as he would like. As a newcomer to state, he was very steady with rounds of 81 and 83.
The Eagle Valley junior did leave Highlands Ranch with fond mem-ories of the course’s 12th hole. He birdied the dogleg-right par-4 in both of his rounds.
” The first day, I cut the corner,” Fahrenholtz said. “The second day I hit it straight. I had pitching wedge (Monday) and a 7-iron (Tuesday) going in.”
McDonald’s putter, on the other hand, did not behave. Both days he started on the 10th at Highlands Ranch and he struggled on his “front nine” both Monday and Tuesday. Over the two days, he shot a combined 87 on holes 10 through 18 with a combined 78 on the back ends of his rounds.
In fairness to McDonald, he was under the weather. He caught the flu from his two brothers over the weekend and was never at full strength.
“I guess next year, if I do get to go to state, I’m going to have to work on putting,” McDonald said. “I wasn’t nervous over any shot. Nothing would fall today or yester-day – nothing.”
It’s pretty surprising that Yanke didn’t get blown back to East Vail from Trinidad’s Cougar Canyon Golf Course.
“Our group had gotten to the green,” Yanke said. “Our golf balls were all on the green, and then a gust of wind came and they were all blown off the green.”
Yanke will be marking his ball from now on even if a single leaf is not moving.
“I learned that lesson,” he joked. Yanke was a bit sheepish about carding a 107 Monday. He should-n’t be. With the wind howling at 40 mph, the 3A state tournament was just ugly for all involved.
Alexander Dawson’s Peter Has-san led after Monday with a 76 and won the state title with a plus-11. Yanke surprisingly didn’t have many problems off the tee or from the fairway. Putting, though, was a nightmare.
“The wind was blowing so hard I had to have a wider stance putting than I did when I was driving just to stay upright,” Yankee said.
Not only did Yankee bounce back with a 97 on Tuesday, but he overcame his demon hole from Monday. On Day 1, Yanke shot an 11 on the par-4 seventh. The wind took his ball into wooded area with rocks and gravel. He hacked is way out, but with great cost.
Ironically, he used a hybrid off the tee instead of driver Tuesday and laded in an equally uncom-fortable spot, but he punched out and got a great up-and-down for par.