Linked by golf

Area's best two girls golfers are friends rather than rivals

Taylor Walters, left, and Kala Keltz, right, have every reason to be rivals. The senior golfers go to different schools and are constantly jockeying for position near the top of the leader board at high school tournaments. Walters and Keltz, however, are fast friends who root for each other on the course. The duo recently played a two-person scramble tournament together, finishing third. Starting Monday, Walters, who attends Rifle High School, and Keltz, who goes to Montrose, will be chasing a state golf title.



Taylor Walters, left, and Kala Keltz, right, both have their ups and downs on the golf course, but the seniors love to compete and play the game.



Rifle’s Taylor Walters and Montrose’s Kala Keltz goof around with their drivers prior to playing in tournament as partners at Rifle Creek Golf Course.



Kala Keltz once hit a 400-yard drive, with some help from strong winds. The Montrose senior took up golf because her grandparents played.



Taylor Walters loves to spend time with her family, whether on or of the course. The Rifle senior would be happy if either she or Montrose’s Kala Keltz won state.



QUICKREAD

What’s in the bag?

Taylor Walters

Titleist Pro V balls; Scotty Cameron putter; Titleist AP2 irons, but replaces 3-through-6-irons with hybrid and rescue clubs; TaylorMade R11 driver; a couple of Cobra woods and a TaylorMade 5-wood.

About her choices, she says, “I’m a little bit of a Titleist snob.”

Kala Keltz

Titleist Pro V balls; Ping Anser 2 putter; Callaway X-24 Hot irons, but no 3-iron; Cleveland Black driver; and a Ping 5-wood. She doesn’t carry a 3-wood.

About her 5-wood, she says she doesn’t really know what it is other than, “It’s a Ping. It’s about 12 years old. It’s my dad’s old one. He kind of got a little upset when I took it.”

About that club, Walters says to Keltz, “Your 5-wood, you kill it.”

Q&A

with Kala Keltz and Taylor Walters

They seem to take turns finishing ahead of each other and winning medalist honors when they play at the same tournaments, but Montrose senior Kala Keltz and Rifle senior Taylor Walters are OK with that. They’ve become good friends.

Monday and Tuesday at Broken Tee Golf Course in Englewood each will play in her fourth and final Class 4A state tournament. Both look to improve upon excellent finishes one year ago when Keltz tied for fifth at state with a 152, and Walters was one shot behind in seventh.

The two played together recently as teammates in a two-person scramble, and before hitting the links, they sat down to answer a long list of questions, revealing a lot of common ground and a few differences.

What is your favorite club to hit?

Taylor: I’d say pitching wedge, just because when I get that in my hands, I feel really confident. It used to be my driver, but we’re struggling right now. ... Our relationship, we’re not at our highest point, but we’ll get there.

Kala: Mine’s my pitching wedge. It’s my confidence club. It’s my warm-up club. I like to get the feel from it. It’s probably the club that’s the basis for my swing.

Least favorite club?

Taylor: It varies. Right now it would be the 56-degree wedge.

Kala: My 4-iron, long irons just get to me, intimidating. ... It’s hard to hit them square and solid.

Best shot you ever hit?

Taylor: Last year, I got a hole in one, but I don’t know if it would be my best shot ever. ... It was on No. 9, Rifle Creek (Golf Course). I hit a 6-hybrid from the whites, about 150 yards.

Kala: I got a hole in one last year, the day after state, at Black Canyon (Golf Club) on hole No. 9. It was an 8-iron from the white tee, about 145 yards.

Worst shot you ever hit?

Kala: I shanked my 60-degree at state sophomore year into a tree. It got me into trouble the next four holes.

Taylor: I have this shot we call a “shank” sometimes. I struggled with it my sophomore year. We don’t say that word. It’s kind of like a swear word in golf, so we stay away from it.

Kala: We don’t say that word on our team.

The shot you’re most confident in?

Taylor: The four-to-five footer with my putter, just right in the gut.

Kala: I’m pretty confident around the greens with my 60-degree.

Taylor: She recovers well every time with that.

Worst hazard to deal with?

Taylor: Out of bounds is definitely the worst. ... I’m not a huge fan of sand.

Kala: I love the sand. It gives you a chance to swing the club from that short distance. ... I hate being on the dirt, like at Devil’s Thumb (Golf Club). It’s just not a fun shot to hit.

Favorite area golf course?

Taylor: We’re in a really good area for them. ... I obviously like my home course (Rifle Creek), but when we get out, I like Yampa (Valley Golf Course) in Craig and Cobble (Creek) in Montrose.

Kala: Probably (The Links at) Cobble Creek, one of my home courses, because it’s challenging, but it’s playable.

Golf course where you struggle the most?

Taylor: I really dislike Dos Rios (Golf Club in Gunnison) with a passion. I just feel like you get punished for hitting a good shot. It’s not fair. ... I don’t like Lakota (Canyon Ranch and Golf Club in New Castle) much either.

Kala: Probably Dos Rios, too. It gave me the most trouble last year.

Dream course to play?

Kala: I want to play St. Andrew’s (The Old Course).

Taylor: I’d have to agree, and going over to a different country would be amazing.

Kala: And it’s like a legendary course.

The age when you got serious about golf?

Taylor: Probably my freshman year. That’s when I realized it’s what I really wanted to do. And I wanted to go to practice on my own, not just go out with my dad because he was going.

Kala: Freshman year. I just started going to the course for me instead of just going out with my family, messing around.

Longest drive?

Taylor: Probably around 300.  ... Kala, however, must have played on a really windy day (when she hit her longest drive).

Kala: 400 yards (this year at Conquistador Golf Course in Cortez). It was pretty windy. I just teed it high and let it fly. ... I was just trying to get over some trees. It was blowing a good 50 (mph), solid 50, and the ground was hard, so it rolled.

Worst condition to play in?

Kala: I can play in anything — rain, hail, hot weather, cold weather — but wind is the worst.

Taylor: Wind.

Reason you took up golf?

Kala: My great grandpa and grandma got me started. They cut me down some of their clubs and got me swinging them in the backyard. And my whole family has always played golf, so we had that that we’ve done together.

Taylor: My dad, obviously, he’s a golfer. I remember being out in the cart with him all day at tournaments. I’d have four bags of Cheetos. I was 5 to 8 years old, around there, and I would always ask him, “Can I have more?” He’d say, “Just don’t tell your mom,” because it was always before dinner. ... I can’t really eat Cheetos anymore.

Favorite player?

Taylor: It took me a while to even enjoy watching golf on TV.

Kala: That’s what I do in the morning before I go to school, watch the Golf Channel. ... I’ve always liked Phil Mickelson because he’s left-handed and really good. And he does a lot for the community, too.

Taylor: I don’t really have one. I enjoy watching Bubba Watson.

Kala: I really respect Michelle Wie because she finished college while being a professional golfer.

Part of Kala’s game you wish you had?

Taylor: How she recovers. She can be doing not her best, then come back and be doing great. And she’s a really long hitter. It’s fun to watch. I always keep track of how many times I outdrive her.

Part of Taylor’s game you wish you had?

Kala: Taylor putts really well. If she has a long putt, she’s always going to knock it within three feet. The way she is on the four-, five-footers, I wish I was like that. ... She has the Ferrari of putters (a Scotty Cameron).

Lowest round you ever shot?

Taylor: 74 (to win 4A regional at River Valley Ranch on May 7). I’ve had nines when I’m under par.

Kala: 68 at Cobble Creek about a month ago. Our team went out for a practice round. ... (In a tournament) I shot a 70 in an ACE tournament two summers ago, also at Cobble.

Taylor: Cobble’s her course. She’s got that down.

Kala: It just fits my game pretty good.

Have you ever thrown a club?

Taylor: Yes, not intentionally, though.

Kala: I threw one one time. I don’t think I’ve ever done it besides then.

Taylor: Golf is one of those sports that reveals character.

Kala: I’m pretty good at staying composed. ... If Taylor’s playing and I see she’s struggling, I’ll go over and give her a hug.

Taylor: And vice versa. ... I’ll talk to her. ... Sometimes I talk too much, and she’s, “Shut up, Taylor.”

Kala: She’s pretty good about knowing when not to talk to me.

Do you ever curse on the golf course?

Taylor: It’s a mumble under my breath. I keep it to myself. I’m not going to make others uncomfortable. I try not to do it. It doesn’t help your game. It only makes it worse.

Kala: Yes, I have. I just get into it, and sometimes words come out. I don’t go out and yell it. I try to keep it to myself. ... I find substitute words, like shiitake mushrooms.

Taylor: I’ll say, “Oh, poop, or caca.”

Taylor, if Kala wins the state title, and Kala, if Taylor wins the state title, you will ... ?

Taylor: We’re one big team on the Western Slope. I’m pretty sure I would be thrilled.

Kala: I’m pretty sure I’d cry (out of happiness).

Taylor: I’d definitely cry.

Kala: It’s like family.

If either of you would finish second by one stroke to the other?

Taylor: That’d be even better.

Kala: It would be an awesome memory.

Best golf lesson you ever learned?

Taylor: Play with gratitude. It’s nice out, and you get to play golf; not everyone gets to do that. ... And enjoy the moment.

Kala: Probably just to never give up, because there’s always another hole. ... It’s a great lesson to apply to life, too.

Are you superstitious?

Taylor: I have a necklace that I play with all the time. And if I have earrings that I played well in, I’ll wear them again ... And I like to warm up the exact same way all the time.

Kala: On par-threes and if I ever have to use my irons off the tee, I have to have a broken tee, or I’ll chunk it. If there’s not one on the ground that I can use, I’ll break my own.

Favorite nonsports activity?

Taylor: I like to do things with my family, no matter what we’re doing. ... I love shopping.

Kala: I like to go camping and four-wheeling a lot. I like to be outside and with my family. I like hunting and camping. ... I like to go to Silver Jack (Reservoir).

Taylor: I’m not much of a camper. I’d rather be clean and take a shower.

Favorite movie?

Kala: For a golf movie, I love “Seven Days in Utopia,” because it gives out such a great message and is such a good movie.

Taylor: I definitely don’t have a favorite movie. I know that’s really boring of me. ... I like girly movies — comedies and chick flicks.

Kala: I’m more “Fast and Furious.”

Are you looking forward to “Fast 6” coming out?

Kala: Oh, yeah. Can’t wait.

Favorite music?

Kala: I’m a huge fan of country music.

Taylor: I love country music.

Favorite food?

Taylor: I love food. It doesn’t really matter what it is. I’m eating all the time.

Kala: I also love food. I’m a picky eater, but I’m always eating, too. ... My favorite is lasagna and my mom’s chicken enchiladas. (Turns to Taylor and says) When you come down this summer, I’ll have her make them for you.”

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Taylor: I have a favorite TV show. It’s called “Awkward.” Literally it’s my getaway for the week.

Kala: I have a really bad sweet tooth. ... Whenever I’m golfing, you’ll find me with cinnamon Jolly Ranchers. I always have candy.



Taylor Walters didn’t hit the drive she wanted on hole No. 10 at Rifle Creek Golf Course, but a minute later she didn’t care. Kala Keltz stepped into the tee box and tattooed a drive down the middle.

“That’s my partner,” Walters exclaimed.

Five holes later, after Keltz was less than satisfied with her shot from the elevated tee box to the No. 15 green, Walters returned the favor. Her tee shot gave them a much better putt, and Keltz turned to Walters and said. “That’s my partner.”

That recent afternoon was oh so different for the Western Slope’s two best girls golfers. They were playing in a tournament, a two-person scramble, as teammates, not the high school tournaments where they are opponents, Keltz starring for Montrose and Walters starring for Rifle.

What remained the same was their friendship, a four-year evolution from deer-in-headlights freshmen who didn’t dare speak to each other, to confident seniors who will head to the Class 4A state tournament in Englewood this week trying to improve upon the top-seven finishes they achieved last year.

When they encountered each other for the first time, kind of knowing who the other was, they weren’t certain what to say or do. Being a freshman, playing high school golf for the first time — on the varsity, no less — and not knowing who or what awaited — well, the safe play was keeping your mouth shut.

By the end of that first year, however, things started to change. They spoke their first words to each other, albeit succinct.

“We were both going to state,” Walters recalled, “and it was like, ‘Good job, Kala.’ “

Keltz returned the compliment.

Sophomore year brought a little more of the well-wishing. Although they didn’t exactly become chatterboxes, they started learning more about each other, some of the background coming from their parents talking while watching their kids play tournaments.

“I think we started to realize our differences aren’t so vast,” Keltz said.

Then came junior year, and they realized they could be opponents and friends, and the world wouldn’t end.

“We really started talking,” Walters said, “and we found out we have some things in common. ... We started cheering for each other.”

They both played basketball. They both like country music. They both watch the TV show “Awkward.” They both like to eat — “A lot,” they say — although their athletic frames suggest the contrary.

More recently they learned they were born one day apart 18 years ago.

Oh yeah, they also have fantastic golf games. Each admires parts of the other’s game, although neither is deficient in any part of their game.

Well, maybe neither is accomplished in standing at an angle while hitting shots off a dirt mound at Rifle Creek. After deciding to play that ball during the scramble, each hit a poor shot that left them in the dirt-mound field.

“What were we thinking?” Walters asked.

Keltz had the answer: “We weren’t thinking.”

But they were having fun, their camaraderie evident throughout, on their way to finishing third in the tournament.

Monday, they won’t be teammates when they begin play at Broken Tee Golf Course in Englewood. For that matter, Keltz will be joined by three other Montrose girls with pretty good golf games as the Indians try to make some noise as a team.

But if Walters wins a state title ...

Or if Keltz wins a state title…

... Each says they’ll be as happy for the other as if they had won it themselves.

“She’s become one of my best friends,” Keltz said. “I wish her the best in everything.”


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