VMS golf second at Vail; regionals up next
VAIL — If regionals up in Steamboat are anything like Tuesday’s regular season-ending tournament at the Vail Golf Club, then it should be quite the show.
Aspen’s Will Hazen topped the field with a 2-over par 73 and his Skiers took top honors, regardless of the 3A/4A distinction. The Vail Mountain School felt quite at home in its tournament, finishing second, six strokes behind Aspen, while Eagle Valley was third.
“We’ve got a lot of great freshmen who came up this year, who are really solid,” Hazen said. “They’re competing for those third, fourth and fifth spots. All these kids can break 80, so there’s a lot of competition to prepare for tournaments. Today, we decided to go with the four seniors on our varsity team and the four freshmen on our JV team. It worked out pretty well.”
One could say that. Hazen won the day, followed by Steamboat Springs’ Will Firestone (74) and Aspen freshman Dominic Lanese (75).
Hazen, now a senior, used a tried-and-true method for playing well at Vail — keep the ball below the pin. That led to three birdies on four holes on nos. 5-8. Only double-bogeys on nos. 9 and 15 prevented Hazen from red numbers.
See you soon
VMS and Aspen will do this all over again on Tuesday up in Steamboat Springs with the Gore Rangers hoping for a different result. And while this may sound like the hometown newspaper, anything can and usually does happen at regionals. It’s a one-day tournament.
VMS’ Oliver Pesso has been looking sharp down the stretch drive. He overcame a bad start — three bogeys in a row, including a three-putt bogey on the par-3 third — to post a 77. He visited the bird sanctuary on the par-5 eighth, where a hybrid, a 5-iron and a 30-yard chip led to a tap-in tweeter.
And then he had a nice moment at the turn.
“Ten, it was kind of fun,” Pesso said. “My whole class came out and watched me. I kind of had a gallery and I striped one.”
Pesso had an 83 up in Steamboat earlier this month. Despite that score, he said he played pretty well. It’s a matter of cleaning up three ugly holes. And that’s why there’s a practice round up north on Monday.
Unlike his teammate, Ben Barron had a really good start on Tuesday. The VMS senior was looking at a 45-foot “triple-breaker” putt. No problem — he canned it for a birdie.
“I sunk that and I was in complete disbelief,” Barron said.
Barron didn’t need to perform miracles with his putter on the fourth. He chipped in for birdie, which simplifies the short game tremendously. Barron went out in 37 but struggled on the way back, admitting that a double on the par-3 15th got him out of his game a bit.
“The consistency of my tee shots is one of the things I really need to hammer down on,” he said.
The moment of the day likely belonged to VMS’ Tyler Hancock with his tee shot on No. 3. Since that hole’s tee box is below a crowned par-3 green, Hancock had no idea that his shot actually went into the hole and then popped out. A spectator from Aspen gave him the news. Robbed of his ace, Hancock tapped in the 1-footer for a birdie on his way to an 85.
Here come the Devils
Eagle Valley’s Tanner Caldarola got a much-needed boost on Tuesday with a 76. He’d been in a little bit of a rut.
“It gets my confidence back up,” Caldarola said.
The junior says that his putting is going to be key for regionals up in Steamboat.
“In the practice round, I’m going to try to figure out where I want to be (on the green), seeing the angles better.”
Despite an off day from Barrett Jones (86), Michael Sandoval’s 82 helped the Devils to finish third, something that seemed rather improbable a year ago. That’s a season low for Sandoval and three different members of the JV logged career lows, so the program is clearly headed in the right direction.
Battle Mountain finished sixth with one of its better days of the season. Miles Joersz led the way with an 81, while Taylor Staughton and Jack Oberly carded 84s.
Over the horizon
Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain golfers will be heading to Steamboat, trying to earn 4A state bids at the Foxhill Country Club in Longmont. Meanwhile, regionals in Steamboat will send golfers to the 3A state tournament at Eagle Ranch.
The prospect of a pseudo-home state tourney for VMS — Vail Christian is the official host — has not escaped notice. But first things first, said Pesso.
“I try not to (look ahead),” he said. “This whole season, I’ve done a good job of staying in (the moment). At Keystone, I had a six-and-half hour round and I didn’t look too far ahead. I ended up shooting a 74. I feel like I can stay in it. “
Meanwhile, Aspen’s Hazen is pumped.
“I’m very excited. I’ve played Eagle Ranch many times in (Colorado Junior Golf Association) and Rocky Mountain Junior Golf tournaments over the year,” he said. “It’s a course I have a lot of experience on.”