Late start benefits Rifle golfers

Walters shoots 75 to win Bookcliff Invitational

Aly Shuman of Palisade High School hits out of a bunker on No. 11 during Monday’s Bookcliff Invitational. Shuman finished in a three-way tie for third place with an 81.

Rifle High School sophomore Elly Walters watches her drive on No. 10 during the Bookcliff Invitational golf tournament Monday. Walters shot 4-over-par 75 in her first tournament of the season to win at Bookcliff Country Club.

Elly Walters didn’t like the way she finished her round, but everything else about her season debut signaled the Rifle High School sophomore is ready to shoot some low scores on area golf courses this season.

Walters had two bogeys and a double-bogey on her final four holes but still shot a 4-over-par 75 to win the Bookcliff Invitational girls golf tournament Monday at Bookcliff Country Club.

With freshman Masi Smith adding an 81 for the Bears and senior Emily Neuroth shooting an 86, Rifle ran away with the team title with a 242, 19 fewer strokes than runner-up Glenwood Springs No. 1.

Not a bad day for a team competing in its first meet of the season about three weeks after nearly all of the other Western Slope teams had hit the links.

“Our goal was to shoot 250,” Bears coach Roger Walters said. “I’m really thrilled with the 242. ... I think the kids are competent enough to shoot 250 every time we play.”

The Bears intentionally waited to start their season because many of the golfers also play basketball. Rifle made the Class 4A basketball playoffs, and Roger Walters said if he had signed up his golf team for one of those early meets, his players would have been playing three days after the basketball season ended.

Instead, he waited for basketball and spring break to pass before playing in a meet.

One of those golfers who plays basketball is Elly Walters, Roger’s daughter, and she started her round looking like she’s been competing for a month.

In a way, she said, that’s been the case because the team has had to play off to determine varsity spots and the pecking order.

“I’m super-excited for this team because it’s a competitive team,” Elly said. “We’ve played some qualifiers, and they’re competitive. You’ve got to show up.”

Walters started on hole No. 1 and offset her bogey on No. 4 with a birdie on No. 6 to make the turn with an even-par 35.

On the back nine, she bogeyed No. 11, then birdied No. 12 and remained even through 14 holes.

“I had some good saves. I putted and chipped really well,” she said. “For the most part, it wasn’t anything special. I went up and down a lot, had some good saves. ... It was kind of more of a grinding day.”

And the final four holes — bogey, bogey, par, double-bogey — she said left her “a little bummed,” especially the double-bogey on No. 18.

“That one hurt things,” she said of her final score.

Roger Walters said Elly had her chipping, putting and drives going, and “that’s a pretty good combination.”

For Smith’s debut, Roger Walters was impressed by her ability to overcome nerves.

“I think she was a little nervous today,” he said, “so it was good to get that first one under belt. She’s really talented.”

Lauren Murphy of Glenwood Springs shot 77 to place second, and three players tied at 81: Smith; Grand Junction senior Bailey Summers and Palisade junior Aly Shuman. Summers won a scorecard playoff to get the third-place medal.

The round was a season-best for Summers, a two-time Class 5A state qualifier. She shot a 3-over 39 on the back nine, with birdies on Nos. 10 and 14.

“Everything seemed to be working, and my clubs were going straight,” Summers said.

Her birdie on No. 14, she said, stood out because it started with a wayward drive that she estimated was eight inches from a water hazard. With disaster avoided, she ended the hole with a two-foot birdie putt, thanks to the lob wedge she hit from 68 yards out.

Summers hopes Monday is a sign of things to come in what may be her last season of competitive golf.

She said she’d like to play golf in college, but she plans to go into nursing and might not have time for golf.

“I’d really like to shoot consistent, shoot scores in the low 80s and into the 70s even,” she said. “I played a lot during the summer because I wanted my senior year to be my best.”


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