Gauntlet takes toll on Tigers

AURORA — Grand Junction golf coach Tom LeFebre didn’t use the word “gauntlet,” but that’s an apt description for the final stretch of holes at Murphy Creek Golf Course, site of the Class 5A boys golf state tournament.

Though tournament leader Spencer Painton of Regis Jesuit birdied each of the final six holes to shoot a 6-under-par 66, most players would dearly love to play that stretch in even par.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, they emerged a bit battered after running the gauntlet.

After being in contention for about two-thirds of Monday’s first round, Grand Junction fell back considerably after playing holes 14 through 18. In fact, of the 14 strokes over par the Tigers finished in Round 1, nine came in that stretch.

The three players whose scores counted toward the team total Monday — Donny Kinnaman, Trevor Olkowski and Greg Gibson — each shot 3 over in the final five holes.

“We got off to a really good start, but 14 to 18 are tough finishing holes,” LeFebre said. “That’s where we kind of gave a few shots away. We had some three-putts through that stretch. But they’re just tough golf holes. As the round goes on, your arms start to get a little tired, and it’s tough to maintain your focus through that.”

The result is Grand Junction shares eighth place in the 15-team field heading into today’s final round. The Tigers posted a 14-over-par 230, which leaves them 18 strokes behind three-time defending champion Regis.

Kinnaman, who placed fourth at state last year, shares fifth place at even-par 72 despite a bogey on No. 15 and a double-bogey on 17. Olkowski and Gibson opened with 79s and Ben Volkmann carded an 80.

As for Fruita Monument’s two-player contingent, Troy Dangler posted a 78 and Brandon Speer had a 96.

Kinnaman, winner of four tournaments this season, made four birdies, including on No. 2, where he drained a 50-foot putt.

“The ending wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m still in position to do something special,” he said. “I put myself in position today and got the job done. Even par is a good place to start.”

Though Kinnaman is six shots out of the lead, he’s still in the mix going into the final round.

“Donny took fourth last year, so he kind of knows what it’s like to be in those last couple of groups,” LeFebre said. “He knows anything can happen. You come out, get off to a good start and make a couple birdies, things can happen.”

Olkowski won the Southwestern League title, but the freshman wasn’t in peak form Monday when he made three double-bogeys and four bogeys to go along with three birdies.

“It was so bad; I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I did hit my driver really good, but everything else ... I couldn’t score. But I grinded it out. My putting kind of let me down. And I was working real hard at it, so it was kind of disappointing.”

He made a 35-foot par putt on No. 18, so things ended on a positive note.

“I had high expectations for myself,” Olkowski said. “I can still shoot low tomorrow and put up a respectable number for two days.”

Dangler, playing his second state tournament, likewise had his ups and downs. He made three birdies, but also two double-bogeys and five bogeys. The most frustrating hole was his last, the driveable par-4 ninth. There, he was just off the green after his tee shot, but he walked off the hole with a double bogey.

“It was kind of a terrible way to finish,” the sophomore said. “There were definitely some positive sides to the day. I hit the ball really well. But the mistakes I made were bad. I’m a little disappointed. I was expecting a little better.”


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