Vail Valley preps: Wilhelm, Battle Mountain win opener
PARACHUTE – Battle Mountain golf’s Michael Wilhelm played the full 18 in Thursday’s high-school opener at Battlement Mesa. He even had to play an extra hole because of a tie.
So naturally, when he got back home, the first thing he did was head to the Sonnenalp in Edwards to play another round with his buddy Cameron Brown.
That would be serendipity, people.
Wilhelm finished with a 76 down at Parachute and that tied him for low-medalist honors with none other than Eagle Valley’s Nick Bontempo. Wilhelm bested Bontempo in a playoff to become the second Battle Mountain golfer in as many years to win at Battlement Mesa.
Last year’s winner? Brown, who’s college-bound shortly.
All in all, it was a very good day for the Huskies and Devils, as Wilhelm, Bontempo and Battle Mountain’s Dillon McDonald went 1-2-3. McDonald also won a playoff for third place, topping Aspen’s Jesse Beethem.
The Huskies won the tournament with 237 strokes, ahead of Aspen (239) and Eagle Valley (241).
“We ganged up on them,” Eagle Valley coach Tom Buzbee joked.
While Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley rarely agree on anything, Thursday’s round at Battlement Mesa was a nice change of pace after tryouts at Eagle-Vail and Gypsum Creek. The Huskies played two rounds at the former on Monday and Tuesday, while the Devils played the front nine twice of the latter as tryouts for their teams.
“The Battlement Mesa course looked wide open to them after two days of the front nine of Gypsum Creek, where you have to tip-toe around the course,” said Buzbee, who could have just have easily been speaking about the Huskies’ time at Eagle-Vail. “It was nice cool morning. The guys were glad to hit driver and play aggressively.”
Wilhelm did just that. Coming off an impressive freshman campaign when he was consistently in the low 80s, the sophomore gave notice in starting 2010 with his 76.
“I thought I managed the golf course well,” Wilhelm said. “I didn’t get in any bad situations. My putting was awful. I had four three-putts. I knock those out and I’m at even.”
While the post-round regret is a ritual of all golfers, the violins are playing for Wilhelm. Bontempo also ended 18 holes with 76, so the two, along with McDonald and Beethem, who were knotted at 77, went to the par-4 ninth for their respective playoffs.
“It was my first playoff,” Wilhelm said. “The wind was blowing hard from left to right. I teed off first. I just wanted to put it in the fairway and make (Bontempo) try to make a birdie.”
Bontempo’s tee shot was went into the sage and was unplayable. His approach to the green found the front bunker, while Wilhelm parred the hole for the win.
“It was kind of different being in a playoff,” Bontempo said. “I haven’t been in that type of pressure situation before. But it’s a good start to the season. I was not expecting to do great today because tryouts didn’t go so well. I was happy to get the season off with a good round.”
“It’s a learning experience,” Buzbee said. “A 76, he should be proud of that. What he should take away from the experience is how much further ahead he is of where he was last year at this time.”
If the opener is any indication, both teams should be very competitive this season. McDonald started the year with a 77, despite some troubles off the tee. However, his chipping and putting are on, and that led to a good score.
Andrew Sady was Battle Mountain’s third scorer with an 84, and there should be some competition for that spot with Brady McDonald, who just got back into town Wednesday and couldn’t play.
The Devils also showed they have some depth. Dustin Arguello came home in 82 including consecutive birdies on his front nine. Austin Fahrenholtz, who qualified for state last year, has a slow start, but rallied for an 83.
Both teams, along with Vail Mountain, 13th Thursday, and Vail Christian which played in its first varsity tournament in Parachute, head to Bookcliff Monday.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.