Grand Valley golfers first fall athletes to begin practice
With tee shots ripping down the first fairway at Lincoln Park Golf Course on Monday, the Colorado high school season began.
Central and Grand Junction both had their first day of golf tryouts at Lincoln Park, preparing for the first local tournament, Aug. 15 at Bookcliff Country Club.
That first tournament will be a big one, because it’s the home course of this year’s Class 5A state tournament Oct. 3-4.
“It’s a great venue because we have some local kids that have an opportunity to have a good showing at a course they are familiar with,” Grand Junction coach Tom LeFebre said. “That’s a huge incentive, knowing you get to play state at home.”
Golfers begin practice one week before the other fall sports.
“The season is so short that we don’t want to miss an opportunity to come out here and work on our game,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “You really want to have them learn and understand the game of golf.”
Central lost Chad Johnson, its lone state qualifier from last season. Instead, the Warriors will build around sophomore Preston Grandbouche and juniors Kyle Serrano, Bryan Harvey and Nick Harvey.
“We could be deeper than we’ve been in a while,” Dixon said. “Most of those guys lettered, so they’ve had enough tournament time that the stomach-in-throat feeling won’t be there.”
Dixon said his golfers will have to adjust to playing against better competition.
“It’s still a young group,” Dixon said. “We’ve had the one through three spot occupied for the last three years, so asking these guys to move from the five spot to two spot can be a little intimidating at times.”
Inexperience won’t be a problem for Grand Junction. The Tigers top three golfers are all seniors — Garrett Harrison, Garrett Fante and Keith Rockwood.
“With our mix of experience and youth, I hope this is a team that can win tournaments,” LeFebre said. “They have been playing golf all summer, so right now they should be playing some of their best golf.”
Fruita Monument returns one of the top players from last season in senior Joey Saad. Saad has made the state tournament the past two seasons, tying for 22nd last season.
Saad didn’t play much over the summer because of a lower back injury. Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said he’s getting back into shape, and will be ready for the season.
Alongside Saad, the Wildcats have Will Berg, Eric Jacobs, Cade Chapin, Michael Harris and Kelin Henke.
Fox said having the state tournament at Bookcliff is good for travel purposes, but isn’t an obvious advantage.
“Last year we had the regional at Tiara Rado and none of the local kids did all that well,” Fox said. “It can be a good and bad thing.”
Palisade competes at the 4A level and has its state tournament at Pelican Lakes Golf Course in Windsor. The Bulldogs’ top returner is Kyler Smith, a junior who tied for 11th at last year’s state tournament.
“Kyler played all summer,” Palisade coach Jan Norell said. “He’s come on strong so far.”
In addition to Smith, the Bulldogs have Skyler Miller, Bill Pierce, Kyle Avrett, TJ Tway, Alex Hooker and Jaden Krueger all vying for varsity spots.
“I have some young kids and it’s going to be interesting to see who fills the shoes,” Norell said.
The Bulldogs waste no time beginning their season Thursday at Grand Valley’s tournament at Battlement Mesa Golf Club.