GJ captures team title in golf opener
Every stroke counts when a golf team wins by one stroke, and Grand Junction High School got a nice surprise Thursday from junior Richie Wise when the Tigers opened their season by winning the 19-team Grand Valley Invitational.
Wise, the Tigers’ No. 5 player, followed a bogey on No. 2, his 17th hole at Battlement Mesa Golf Course because of a shotgun start, with a birdie on No. 3, which Grand Junction coach Tom LeFebre called a tough par-3. No. 3 is 175 yards and “kind of uphill,” LeFebre said.
The birdie gave Wise a 79 for the round and counted as Grand Junction’s third individual in the team scoring as the Tigers finished with 223 strokes, one better than Vail Christian, to win the tourney.
Freshman Trevor Olkowski and junior Donny Kinnaman led the charge for Grand Junction, carding scores of 71 and 73, respectively, placing third and fifth individually.
“Battlement Mesa is a challenging golf course, so I was real proud of the way Donny and Trevor played,” LeFebre said. “Really, I was most proud of Richie Wise shooting 79 for our third team score. ... It was good for him.”
LeFebre said the round should boost Wise’s confidence, and it gives the rest of the team confidence knowing any of the starting five can pick up the team.
“When you have five golfers on any given day that can shoot a score that counts, it allows the team to play with a little less pressure,” LeFebre said.
Thursday was a strong start for a still young but veteran Grand Junction team. Kinnaman, Wise, Greg Gibson and Ben Volkmann are juniors, all with varsity experience, and Kinnaman and Gibson were Class 5A state qualifiers as sophomores.
Olkowski made a strong push for medalist honors, but Aspen’s Clayton Crawford claimed the top spot with a 69, and Basalt’s Tristan Rohrbaugh followed with a 70. Kinnaman could have been in the thick of it, too, if not for his putter.
“Donny shot 1-over with four three-putts, so that was frustrating for him,” LeFebre said of Kinnaman, who placed fourth at the 5A state meet last year.
Fruita Monument was hit hard by graduation but opened the season well with 232 strokes and a fourth-place finish, led by sophomore Troy Dangler’s 74, tying him for seventh place. Jacob Johnson followed with a 77 for the Wildcats.
Ty Caron tied for 10th place with a 76 and helped Rifle finish seventh with 240 strokes. Delta was a stroke behind the Bears in eighth, paced by Tyler Garcia’s 79.