Kinnaman wins second straight title
Six straight days of competitive golf is supposed to be a grind. It’s supposed to make a player wilt.
Instead, Donny Kinnaman got better. And better. And Tuesday, Day 6 of his six rounds of golf, he was at his best.
And the Grand Junction High School junior had to be because Troy Dangler decided he was tired of scoring in the mid-70s.
Kinnaman met the Fruita Monument sophomore’s challenge — the two were paired in the same group — to claim the medalist honor, and he led the Tigers to the team championship of the Wildcat Invitational at The Golf Club at Redlands Mesa.
Kinnaman shot a 4-under-par 68 to edge Dangler by a stroke, and Grand Junction finished with 226 strokes, six better than Fruita, which finished second in the 14-team tournament it hosted.
Grand Junction coach Tom LeFebre said Thursday, after Kinnaman shot a 75 to place fifth at the Rifle Invitational at Rifle Creek Golf Course, Kinnaman had just begun what would be six straight days of competitive golf. LeFebre added that’s a long stretch for any golfer to endure.
Kinnaman shrugged at the suggestion he might wear down. He said he practices golf eight to 10 hours every day.
“Golf and school is all I have time for,” he said. “Six days (of playing rounds) is nothing, because I practice more than that.”
His play backed up his words.
Friday through Sunday, Kinnaman played in the Enstrom Rocky Mountain Open and shot rounds of 73, 71 and 71. Monday he returned to Bookcliff Country Club, where he played in the first and third rounds of the RMO, and fired a 1-under 70 to win the Tiger Invitational.
Then came Tuesday and his 68 and another good day with the putter, which had been costing him several strokes per round, but not Monday or Tuesday. He limited his three-putt holes to one each day instead of the three to four times per round in previous days.
And after a ho-hum start Tuesday at Redlands Mesa, shooting 1 over on the front nine, Kinnaman caught fire on the back nine, carding six of his seven birdies on the day. He birdied four holes in a row, Nos. 13 through 16, then after a bogey on No. 17 that allowed Dangler to close within a stroke with a birdie, Kinnaman parred No. 18 to hold off Dangler, who missed an eight-foot putt for birdie.
Dangler lamented that miss, saying, “I’m disappointed, but I’m happy with the way I played.”
Dangler started slow, shooting 3-over through four holes, but beginning on No. 8, he made four straight birdies to pull even with Kinnaman after 11 holes.
“The four birdies in a row, that was really the turning point,” said Dangler, who qualified for the Class 5A state meet last fall as a freshman. “I had been struggling, and after that it was like, ‘Game time. It’s time to go.’
“I hit the ball really well, hit the ball really consistent. I played smart, gave myself shots I knew I could hit well.”
Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said Dangler and Kinnaman’s back nines deserved a large audience, calling it “fascinating and fun to watch.”
Fox said Kinnaman has been playing phenomenally, and he admires Kinnaman’s ability and approach to the game. He said it was good for Dangler to be paired with last year’s fourth-place finisher at the 5A state tournament, and Dangler responded to the challenge.
“Troy showed a lot of confidence today,” Fox said.
Tigers finish strong
Similar to Kinnaman withstanding Dangler’s challenge, the Tigers kept Fruita Monument at bay by playing well down the stretch. Trevor Olkowski, who shot a 77, and Greg Gibson, who shot an 81, shook off slow starts to finish strong and bring home the team victory.
Olkowski was 6 over with seven holes to play, LeFebre said, when the coach challenged the freshman to close strong. Olkowski proceeded to shoot 1 under the rest of the way.
Gibson, who started his round on No. 18 in the shotgun start, carded a nine on No. 11, but he didn’t let it affect him the rest of the way. LeFebre said Gibson, who qualified for the state meet last year, played 3 over on his final eight holes.
LeFebre said he was proud of the way all five of his players finished because it was one of two things he emphasized in the past two tournaments: Manage the course and finish the round.
Montezuma-Cortez senior Jakob Rudosky finished third Tuesday with a 70 and said he has been playing well lately.
“I just have to work on the short game a little bit, and I’ll right where I want to be,” said Rudosky, who placed eighth in the Class 4A state meet last year.
A 70 will win a lot of high school tournaments, but Rudosky said it didn’t frustrate him to finish third Tuesday.
“I’m doing what I need to be doing, and there’s just someone out there shooting a little better,” he said. “I like competition. (Tuesday) just shows me I need to do better.”
An ace and a career-best
Battle Mountain’s Mitch Lee made a hole in one on par-3, 124-yard No. 12 en route to carding his career-best round, a 77.
Lee said he hit a 50-degree wedge for the second ace of his career, the other coming when he was 11 or 12 years old.
“I hit it really, really cleanly, and it went about five feet past the hole and came back,” Lee said. “It was an exhilarating moment, that’s for sure.”