GJ’s Kinnaman, Fruita’s Dangler tie for seventh at 5A state golf

AURORA — Fruita Monument’s Troy Dangler noted Monday he had finished second to Grand Junction’s Donny Kinnaman several times during the course of the high school golf season.

But on the final day of the season, Dangler pulled neck and neck with the Tigers’ junior.

With Dangler shooting one of only three sub-70 rounds at the Class 5A state tournament, he caught Kinnaman and the two shared seventh place Tuesday at Murphy Creek Golf Course.

“I’m just pleased after the round I had (Monday, a 78) to come back and play well today,” said Dangler, a sophomore playing in his second state tournament. “I played to what my potential is today and bounced back. I’m real pleased.”

Dangler made seven birdies, including a tap-in at No. 18, and shot a 3-under-par 69, leaving him at 3-over 147 overall.

“I hit really good tee shots today,” he noted. “I don’t think I put myself in bad position one time today off the tee box. I just gave myself great opportunities, and I made quite a few putts. Those two things combined turned out well.”

Hole No. 9 got the best of Dangler each day as he double-bogeyed it both rounds, but Fruita coach Dave Fox said Dangler played fantastic.

“It really was a great display of hard work and skill coming together,” he said.

Kinnaman, who placed fourth at state last year, was 2 under through 13 holes of Tuesday’s round, but, like Monday, he struggled down the stretch. Amid strong wins, Kinnaman was 5 over in his final five holes and finished with a 3-over 75.

The junior was particularly set back by a triple bogey on No. 14, where he hit his tee shot and then an approach shot into the water.

“I played all right, but I just made too many mistakes to keep it under par,” Kinnaman said.

But even with that, two consecutive top-seven finishes at state isn’t too shabby.

“I didn’t play my best, but I feel good,” he said. “Top 10 at state is a good thing to put on your resume. I took fourth last year, so two top-10s in a row is nothing to be ashamed of.”

After not qualifying a team for state in recent years, Grand Junction tied for seventh place in the 15-team field. The Tigers recorded a 27-over 459 total, with Kinnaman and freshman Trevor Olkowski leading the way. Olkowski carded a 75 on Tuesday, giving him a 154 total and a 28th-place individual finish.

“You have high expectations, you set goals, and you want to play well,” GJ coach Tom LeFebre said. “To go out, play under pressure, execute shots, with the wind kicking up, it was a tough day to score. I was proud of the way they hung in there and battled. They didn’t give up. Even when we were struggling at different times during the round, they stayed positive and tried to finish the round as best they could. I was proud of the way they played.”

And the best part is, Grand Junction returns all four of its state qualifiers, with juniors Ben Volkmann and Greg Gibson joining Kinnaman and Olkowski.

Each Tiger shot below 80 in at least one round, with Gibson carding a 79 on Monday, and Volkmann shooting 79 on Tuesday. Volkmann finished the tourney with a 159 and tied for 43rd in the 84-player field, and Gibson shot 167, tying for 66th.

“It’s all about learning and gaining experience and going through the process,” LeFebre said. “Hopefully we can qualify a team again, learn from this experience and place higher next year.”

The other local player at the state meet, Fruita Monument junior Brandon Speer, recovered from a 96 on Monday with an 85 on Tuesday to finish with 181 strokes.

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