Course confidence: Playing at Tiara Rado could give valley teams a leg up at regionals

Instead of having to go to Denver and try to qualify for the state golf championships, Central’s Chad Johnson, along with the other 5A valley schools, get to play in their own backyard. The Metro East Regional tees off Monday at Tiara Rado Golf Course.

Central High School golfer Chad Johnson doesn’t have to worry about being unfamiliar with the location of the Metro East Regional golf tournament.

Monday at 8 a.m., 13 teams, including Central, Fruita Monument and Grand Junction, tee off at Tiara Rado Golf Course in hopes of qualifying for the Class 5A state tournament Oct. 4-5 at Valley Golf Course in Aurora.

“I’m pretty pumped it’s at Tiara Rado,” Johnson said. “It should be easier to shoot a good score because we know the course better.”

The winning team, plus the top 13 or 14 individuals not on that team, qualify for state, depending on the total number of players in the tournament.

Last year, Johnson missed the state cut by two strokes. The senior is hoping the home-course advantage will help him qualify for his first state tournament.

“These kids have played Tiara Rado over and over since they were kids,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “We aren’t traveling four hours, we aren’t sleeping in different beds, and we aren’t eating fast food.

“So this is a chance to be relaxed and maybe a kid that normally wouldn’t make state can do it because they are on their home course.”

The District 51 golfers’ advantage at Tiara Rado is strategy. Like most courses, low scores are made on the green, but at Tiara Rado that’s easier said than done.

“The thing about Tiara Rado is it isn’t a long golf course, but the greens can be tough to putt,” Grand Junction coach Tom LeFebre said. “Our kids have the advantage of having played Tiara Rado a lot.”

Fruita Monument’s Joey Saad can’t help but feel the Western Slope golfers having a leg up on the competition.

“I’ve been playing that course since I was a little kid, so our confidence has shot up because we know it,” said Saad, whose stroke average is 75. “On that course, there should be no secrets and hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”

Tiara Rado presents a challenge with its recent rebuilt back nine. The renovations added more length in addition to two more water hazards.

“With that back nine, the course is well-rounded,” Saad said. “It used to be you could go onto the back nine and just bang balls and shoot a low number.

“Now you have to plan shots and it’s a different course on the back nine.”

Arapahoe, Cherokee Trail, Cherry Creek, Eaglecrest, Grandview, Overland, Smoky Hill, Heritage, Littleton and Regis are also in the region.

Cherry Creek, Arapahoe and Regis finished in the top 10 as a team in last year’s state tournament. All three teams have a stroke average of 80 or below.

Regis enters the regional tournament with a stroke average of 74.3, led by senior Tyler Engel’s 70.5.

“They didn’t do us a favor on the teams coming over for sure. You see Cherry Creek, Arapahoe and Regis,” Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said. “But it still is our kids against the course, so kids are trying to do the best they can for 18 holes and not letting a number get in their head early.”

4a/3A western regionals

Both the Class 4A and Class 3A regionals are Tuesday at Cobble Creek in Montrose, with 11 teams in 4A and 13 teams in 3A.

Palisade is in Class 4A, and hoping to get its top players, Kyler Smith, Matt Jones and Tyler Day, all through to the state tournament Oct. 4-5 at Flying Horse Golf Club in Colorado Springs.

“It’s determined on one round of golf, so anything can happen,” Palisade coach Jan Norell said. “I expect them to play their best game, and hopefully it’ll be good enough.”

Montrose is in contention to play well at its home course, led by Drew Trujillo, Niko Youngren and Garrett Johnson.

Montezuma-Cortez could be the favorite heading into the regional after the Panthers’ impressive performances during the regular season. Cortez ended the season with a second-place 230 at Dos Rios Golf Course in Gunnison.

The Panthers’ top two players are Brian Grubbs and Chris Aiken.


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