Blue skies ahead: Growing Palisade program hoping to make some noise on golf course
Palisade High School hasn’t exactly been known for its boys golf program.
When coach Jan Norell took over the program six years ago, she started with six players.
Times have changed.
This season, Palisade had 30 players try out for the team, and the 21 players who survived the tryout are making some noise on the Western Slope.
“They are a good bunch of kids and students,” Norell said. “We are making headway.”
Leading the charge is sophomore Kyler Smith.
Smith capped his trio of season-opening golf tournaments last week with a 1-under-par 69 in the Montrose Invitational at Black Canyon Country Club. The 69 was a career low for Smith, and good enough for second place in the tournament.
“Sixty-nine is a good score, and that’s the first time a Palisade kid has shot under par in a long time,” Smith said. “That felt good, and I’d love to keep it going.”
Smith was a varsity golfer last year as a freshman, and struggled at times to play consecutive consistent rounds. Norell recalls giving Smith some surprising news after the Bulldogs’ first tournament in 2009.
“He shot a 78 at Bookcliff (Country Club) and after he was done he said ‘OK, when’s our next tournament, next week?’ ” Norell said. “I said, ‘We have Tiara Rado tomorrow,’ and he was like ‘Tomorrow morning?’
“So it took him some time to get used to the high school schedule.”
Smith admitted he not only wasn’t used to the grind of playing so many tournaments in a short amount of time, but also was uncomfortable on the course.
“Being a freshman I was really nervous about all the tournaments,” Smith said. “Playing with juniors and seniors from big schools was kind of intimidating at times.”
Something that’s helped Smith improve this year is a growth spurt. Smith has grown 4 inches in height, from 5 feet 6 inches to 5-10, and he’s put on about 15 pounds.
The added height and weight has given Smith a boost in his distance.
“I was in a weights program over the rest of the school year and now I’m hitting the ball much farther,” Smith said. “I’m hitting about 300 yards off the tee with my driver, and last year I was about 270.”
Despite swinging a powerful driver, Smith says his strength on the course is in his short game. With his approach, he’s hoping to keep his stroke average around 75 this season.
The Bulldogs should be more competitive this season with Smith pushing the average. Matt Jones, Tyler Day, Skyler Miller, Kyle Avrett and Kyle Abear will all see varsity action.
“We’ve already done better than we did last year, and it’s been a while since we’ve had three or four guys that could shoot low on a good day,” Norell said. “There is competition one through eight and they push each other, and that’s good for the team.”
Palisade, Fruita and Grand Junction play today in the Battle Mountain Invitational.