4A state golf commences at Cobble Creek

Six area players will be in the field of the CHSAA Class 4A state golf tournament, which takes place today and Tuesday at Cobble Creek Golf Course in Montrose.

Three of those players are from Rifle, which lost a team playoff at the regional for the automatic state berth, but it still qualifies as a team because three Bears qualified individually.

Meanwhile, one area player, James LeDonne of Cedaredge, will be in the field of the Class 3A state tournament today and Tuesday at Pinehurst Country Club in Denver.

Class 4A player profiles

Riley Willis, jr., Montrose

Coach Angelo DeJulio said Willis is a solid ball striker who “hits it in the center of the club face a lot. He has a beautiful swing.” … His mental game is evolving, DeJulio said, especially the mental toughness as Willis won two playoffs against teammates in recent weeks to earn the last varsity spot. “Those two playoffs really helped me mentally,” Willis said, adding it was not a good feeling to have to beat out teammates. “I think I’ve found where I need to be mentally to play.” … Willis is making his first state trip, and DeJulio said it doesn’t surprise him, even though Willis played several tourneys on the junior varsity. “The thing about Riley is the talent is undeniable,” DeJulio said. ... Low round this season is 72.

Kyler Smith, sr., Palisade

Smith is making his third trip to state, and he enters on a hot streak, having won his past three tournaments, including a successful defense of his regional title. He placed 11th at state as a sophomore and 17th last year, and he said his goal this year is to crack the top 10, which would net him all-state honors. ... The state site, Cobble Creek, is to Smith’s liking. “I’m real confident in Cobble,” he said. “I’ve played it a lot and played it well.” … Smith is consistent in all areas, Bulldogs coach Jan Norell said, and the work he put into his short game has shown from 100 yards and in. … “Mentally, he just goes out and plays golf,” Norell said. “He doesn’t let a lot of things bother him.” ... Low round this season is 70.

Skyler Miller, jr., Palisade

Miller worked hard on his entire game in the offseason and matured mentally and physically, according to Norell. … Miller said his stroke average this season is 76, down eight strokes from last year. … Miller plays smart, Norell said, adding, “He knows what he’s capable of doing and doesn’t force shots. He stays within himself. He doesn’t try to be a hero.” … This is Miller’s first state appearance, and he believes he’s ready for it. “I’m happy with my game right now,” he said. “There’s nothing that’s worrying me.” ... Low round this season is 71, and he won one tourney.

Triston Quigley, sr., Rifle

Coach Jordan Smith said Quigley is “a lean kid that hits the ball a mile,” and he plays aggressively and with confidence. That can get Quigley in trouble sometimes, but when his drives are landing in the fairway, “he’s very hard to stop,” Smith said. … Around the green, Smith said Quigley has been very good, leading to a lot of birdies. “He’s not going to shoot 74 with two bogeys and 16 pars,” Smith said. “He makes a lot of birdies and a lot of bogeys.” … This is Quigley’s third state appearance. ... Low round this season is 71.

Ty Caron, jr., Rifle

Coach Smith said Caron is Rifle’s most well-rounded player, a natural golfer and probably the straightest hitter on the team. “The game comes to him very naturally,” Smith said. … Caron switched to a belly putter this year, and his putting improved noticeably. “Especially short putts,” Smith said. “Five feet and in, he’s making them.” … This is Caron’s second state appearance. ... Low round this season is 71.

Danny Bartels, sr., Rifle

Coach Smith said Bartels has been the Bears’ best ball striker the past two seasons. “He has the easiest swing, the most simple swing. … He’s a straight-back, straight-through kid, good timing, good tempo,” Smith said. “He has the most consistent swing. Once he gets into that rhythm, he’s very accurate from 150 yards and in.” … This is Bartels’ third state appearance. ... Low round this season is 74.

Class 3A player profile

James LeDonne, sr., Cedaredge

LeDonne earned his first trip to state after missing the cut at regionals by one stroke as a sophomore and falling in a playoff last year. “To finally do it, it just means so much,” he said. … Bruins coach Larry Murphy said LeDonne is long off the tee, but “he may not even hit driver on some holes. I’d rather have him hit 260 (yards) and straight and hitting off the fairway.” … Since the regional, Murphy said, LeDonne has worked on more consistent ball flight and distance control. ... LeDonne’s father, Steve LeDonne, won the state golf championship in 1972, when CHSAA had just one division. Steve was the first Western Slope player to win the state crown, according to CHSAA. “He’s always been an inspiration,” James said. ... Low round this season is 77.

state tourney notes

Rifle moves up a level in state return

Rifle is competing as a team at state for the second straight year, but it moved up to Class 4A this year.

Bears coach Jordan Smith said his team enters the tourney with the same expectations every team has: “To put together the two best days of golf that we can.”

Keys to playing Cobble Creek

Jordan Smith said Cobble Creek is a big golf course with large, wide greens, and those greens entice people to go after them, and that can be dangerous.

“There’s some trouble out there,” he said, listing tall grass, water hazards and areas being marked out of bounds because of the proximity of homes to the course. “Some holes you need to be smart and put the driver away. Knowing what to hit off the tee is gong to be really important.”

Palisade’s Miller, after a practice round Sunday, has played Cobble Creek four times this season. He said he’s learned: “You’ve got to hit the green on the correct level. They can put the pins in some tough spots.”

Montrose’s Willis added there is water on 15 of the holes, and a big key is “not hitting the bunkers and the water.”

Handful of 4A favorites

Kyler Smith isn’t talking about winning the tournament, but DeJulio puts him on the list of individuals with the ability to win at Cobble Creek, where he’s the assistant golf pro.

“Kyler Smith is another player I’d put in there,” he said after rattling off names such as Jimmy Makloski of Pueblo South, Jack Adolfson and Dylan Wonnacott of defending team champion Silver Creek, and Jakob Rudosky of Montezuma-Cortez. “He’s a good player and as good of a kid as you’ll ever meet.”


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