Gibson gets hot late, helps Tigers qualify for state

Greg Gibson showed his postseason chops again, getting hot down the stretch Monday to deliver the third score Grand Junction needed to qualify as a team for the Class 5A state boys golf tournament.

Gibson, who won a playoff a year ago to claim the final individual state qualifying spot in the 5A Western Regional, got off to a rough start Monday at Raccoon Creek Golf Course in Littleton. He began his round on No. 15 because of the shotgun start and was 8 over par through 11 holes.

His 12th hole, the par-3 No. 8, brought a birdie and a different player the rest of the way as he played the final seven holes at 2-under. Gibson finished with a 78, tying for seventh place along with freshman teammate Trevor Olkowski.

Combined with junior Donny Kinnaman’s third-place 74, the Tigers finished with a 230, good for second place in the Class 5A Western Regional and a team state berth. The top two teams qualified for state, and Boulder won the regional with a 222 to claim the other state berth.

Gibson described his start as awful, and attributed his turnaround to his putter.

“I just started making a lot of putts,” Gibson said. “Coming in, I started making everything inside 10 feet. I got up and down four or five times.”

Rather than get frustrated after his triple-bogey on No. 7, Gibson kept his team in mind and kept his composure.

“Our coach has been telling us, ‘Don’t ever waste a shot. Your teammates are relying on you,’ ” Gibson said.

Gibson’s turnaround was necessary to fend off Loveland, which finished three strokes behind Grand Junction.

“Without a doubt, Greg was our MVP today,” Tigers coach Tom LeFebre said.

LeFebre said players realize the individual cut for state often falls around 80 or 81, and when a player starts poorly, the pressure to make up strokes can be a player’s undoing.

Gibson’s motivation wasn’t about himself, LeFebre said, adding, “He had in the back of his mind he had to do it for the team.”

LeFebre said he was proud of all four Tigers. Playing a foreign course in a one-day qualifying tourney against stronger competition in wet conditions, “Anything can happen in 18 holes,” he said.

A good team like Grand Junction, with all of its regular-season success, had no guarantees of postseason success.

Kinnaman described his start as rough. He said he was missing greens early, but he stuck to his game plan and worked his way back to even par after 16 holes, then bogeyed the final two holes.

“When I started turning it around, I was giving myself better opportunities for birdies and made some putts,” he said, adding all three of his birdies came on the back nine.

He finished with five bogeys, three of which stemmed from three-putting.

Kinnaman would have preferred a better final two holes, but he said his 74 was “all right,” given the ultimate regional goal: “Today was just about surviving.”

Olkowski wasn’t thrilled with his putting, either.

“I didn’t hit a putt outside of six, seven feet,” he said. “I only had one birdie. Usually I get three to four birdies per round.”

But he said the overall result was acceptable, shooting well enough to qualify individually and helping the team to state.

“I think I earned it, and our team did, too,” Olkowski said.

■ The 5A Southern Regional tournament was postponed Monday and rescheduled for Friday at Colorado Springs Country Club. Fruita Monument is one of the teams in the regional.

■ Central plays Wednesday in the 5A Central Regional at Murphy Creek Golf Course in Aurora. The regional was to be played Monday but was rescheduled because of recent heavy rain.

■ Palisade, Delta, Montrose and Rifle are among the 12 teams in the 4A Western Regional today at Gypsum Creek Golf Course.

■ Cedaredge and Grand Valley are among the 10 teams playing in the 3A Western Regional today at Gypsum Creek.


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