Title almost wasn’t

Montgomery wins RMO for 3rd time

Monte Montgomery holes a clutch birdie on 17 and went on to win the RMO.


Monte Montgomery holes a clutch birdie on 17 and went on to win the RMO.

Monte Montgomery was ready to bag the trip.

His daughter was sick, and as much as the professional golfer from Henderson, Nev., loves coming back to his old stomping grounds to play in the Enstrom Rocky Mountain Open, some things are more important than golf.

So, he called Mike Mendelson, one of the RMO’s organizers, on Wednesday and said he wouldn’t be coming to Grand Junction. Or so the thought.

He was assured by family it was OK for him and his son Taylor to play in the RMO, so he loaded up the car Thursday and drove to Grand Junction.

Three days later he was the champion of the 75th RMO, winning the annual tournament for the third time, but 16 years after this second title.

“It’s funny how it works out sometimes,” said Montgomery, who shot a 65 Sunday and 200 for the RMO’s three days, which included two rounds at Bookcliff Country Club and one round at Tiara Rado Golf Course.

Montgomery got hot in the middle of the final round at Bookcliff to take a four-stroke lead, then withstood the charge of two golfers, Basalt’s Jim Knous and Gunner Wiebe of Mesa, Ariz., to win by a stroke.

“It’s always nice to win,” said Montgomery, who earned an $8,000 check for his victory. “It’s been a long time.”

The 1988 Grand Junction High School graduate is 43 years old and gets plenty of golf competition at home these days from Taylor, who finished second in the RMO’s amateur championship flight Sunday. But the elder Montgomery still swings the clubs with power and precision, and he augments it with the golf wisdom that comes from experience. The latter came in handy on the first hole Sunday.

Montgomery, who entered the final round tied for the lead with Boise, Idaho’s Ryan Hietala at 7-under, hit a bad tee shot, but he didn’t compound the situation with a risky second or third shot.

“I played it safe,” he said and still managed to put his third shot 20 feet from the pin, and he sank his putt for birdie.

That, he added, was the hole of the day. Potential disaster became a one-shot lead. It set the tone.

Montgomery birdied No. 4 to get to 9-under, made three pars in a row, then went on a birdie spree for holes 8 through 10, dropping to 12-under and grabbing a four-stroke lead over Hietala.

“Eight, nine and 10 were pivotal,” Montgomery said. “I wedged it close on each one and made my putts.”

Hietala, who finished fourth at 204, thought that sealed the win for Montgomery, given Montgomery’s familiarity with Bookcliff.

“It’s tough to beat him on his home course,” said Hietala, who played bogey-free golf but had just two birdies to Montgomery’s seven. “He played great and made putts.”

But the victory was not in hand, as Knous and Wiebe, both about 20 years younger than Montgomery, charged hard on the back nine. Each finished the round with a 7-under 64.

In the group ahead of the leaders, Wiebe was doing to Bookcliff what he did Friday, when his 8-under 63, fueled by a 7-under back nine, tied him for the lead. After a nondescript front nine Sunday, he carded birdies on 11 through 15, plus another on 18 to go 6-under on the back.

“I played pretty well on the back nine. ... I shot 59 on the back nine,” Wiebe said of his two rounds at Bookcliff. “The front nine isn’t my nine, I guess.”

Knous, meanwhile, got hot at the time Montgomery cooled off.

A birdie on No. 13 put Montgomery at 13-under, but he shot 1-over on his next three holes, carding his only bogey of the day on No. 15. Knous, who also was playing in the lead foursome, seized the opportunity, carding an eagle on No. 14 and birdies on 15, 16 and 18.

“I started out the round today a little slow. I was 1-under at the turn and getting smoked at that point,” Knous said. “Then I eagled 14. That was kind of the turning point for me. That was a two-point swing. Then I got a birdie on 15 and another two-point swing.”

Knous was a stroke behind Montgomery as they walked to the tee box of No. 17, a 227-yard par-3.

Montgomery stuck his tee shot about eight feet from the pin, then sank his putt for birdie while Knous shot par.

“Monte pulled off a great shot on 17,” Knous said.

Montgomery put it another way: “That was the shot of the tournament for me.”

After the tournament, Montgomery spoke of needing to get back home to his 15-year-old daughter McKenzie. He said doctors believe she has “some kind of virus,” but they don’t know for sure what is ailing her.

McKenzie was on his mind more than golf, he said, but that probably helped his golf game.

“It probably took all the pressure off,” Montgomery said. “It took my mind off golf somewhat, and I just played.”

Sullivan doubles up on titles

Colorado Mesa University assistant golf coach Scott Sullivan returned to the top of the amateur championship flight, overcoming Taylor Montgomery’s two-stroke lead entering the final round by shooting a 69 Sunday to win by a stroke, 211-212.

Montrose’s Drew Trujillo was third at 213, and Grand Junction High School junior Donny Kinnaman placed fourth at 215.

Sullivan also championed the senior amateur flight with his Friday-Saturday total of 142, four strokes better than runner-up Matt Hall.

Sullivan has won both titles previously.

“I just played solid, just had one bogey and three birdies, and I putted well,” Sullivan said of his round Sunday.

Wiebe keeps getting close

Wiebe once again came close to claiming his first win as a pro. The 24-year-old has been playing professionally for two years, and he estimated he’s finished second or third a combined 10 or 11 times. That was before adding a second-place finish Sunday.

“It’s tough to swallow,” Wiebe said. “Any time you lose by a shot, you can always find three or four instances where you could have gotten that stroke you needed. Having said that, it’s pretty hard to complain about second place.”

Wiebe shared second with Knous, and each received $3,000.

A sort-of homecoming

Hietala grew up in Aspen and played junior golf in the Grand Valley, but his appearance at the RMO was his first.

“It’s probably my first time back (in Grand Junction) in 25 years,” the 39-year-old said.

What made him decide to play the RMO?

“My buddy Scott Petersen,” Hietala responded.

Peterson, of Parker, tied for fifth place at 206.

Among his best efforts

Knous, 23, has a few impressive highlights on his resume, but his RMO showing “definitely ranks up there,” he said.

A pro for about a year-and-a-half, Knous owns a win as a pro at the Navajo Trail Open in Durango. An alum of Basalt High School and Colorado School of Mines, Knous was the NCAA Division II national runner-up in 2012. He tied for first but lost a playoff.

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