Olkowski leads the way as GJ shoots under par as a team
With a 75 on his scorecard and a belief that his score would be one of the three that counted for the Grand Junction High School boys golf team, senior Ben Volkmann walked toward the clubhouse at Bookcliff Country Club.
In the Tigers’ loaded lineup, that’s an accomplishment, so Volkmann felt pretty good about himself up until he arrived at the clubhouse. There, he learned his stellar score was outdone by all four of his teammates as Grand Junction posted a rare below-par team score.
The Tigers finished with a 2-under 211 at par-71 Bookcliff as Grand Junction won the 14-team Tiger Invitational by eight strokes over Steamboat Springs. All five Tigers finished in the top 11.
Sophomore Trevor Olkowski led the way for Grand Junction, winning the individual title with a 2-under 69, and seniors Greg Gibson and Donny Kinnaman each shot par to finish in a four-way tie for second place. Fellow senior Richie Wise could relate to Volkmann. He shot a 74, and his score didn’t count for the team, either.
It’s not the kind of thing a golfer can get upset about, so Volkmann said, “I’m definitely happy for our team, how everyone played.
“I was happy leaving the final hole, and I came in and saw everyone beat me. I’m still happy.”
Volkmann has opened his season with rounds of 76 and 75, a reflection of a summer of work and a year of growth. He said he’s playing smarter golf, beginning with his tee shots, where he’s leaving his driver in the bag more often and opting for a straighter shot in the 220-yard range.
“I’ve been hitting the ball pretty much where I’ve been looking,” Volkmann said. “I’ve been hitting the fairways and the greens.”
As a result, he hasn’t carded a double-bogey through two rounds.
Olkowski got the win Monday, four days after shooting a 2-under 70 netted him a runner-up finish in Grand Junction’s season-opening tournament win at Battlement Mesa Golf Club.
He said his score Monday reflected the element behind pretty much any score below par: good putting.
“Every part of my game was solid today,” Olkowski said. “My putting was the main reason why I shot how I did.”
One of his key putts was the 20-footer he sank on par-3 No. 15.
“That was a big putt down the stretch,” he said.
Olkowski needed to be on his game to hold off the four golfers who tied for second at 71: Gibson, Kinnaman, Montezuma-Cortez’s Hayden Plewe and Britt Walton of Steamboat Springs.
Grand Junction coach Tom LeFebre acknowledged what his team did Monday was exceptional, and he said the last time he could recall the Tigers posting a team score under par was about 10 years ago. That’s when Eric Winder, Dane Hamilton, Kyle Sullivan, Brandon Berguin and Sam Krey were walking the fairways for GJHS.
LeFebre put Monday’s score in perspective, though, saying all five of the Tigers had familiarity with the course working in their favor, and, “This is a day that I sensed they would play well.”
He added, “All of our kids have played Bookcliff Country Club a lot, so they feel comfortable out here. They know the greens, and the greens were in phenomenal shape.”
It’s also a veteran group with four seniors, and Olkowski as a freshman joined Kinnaman, Gibson and Volkmann as the Tiger’s quartet at last year’s Class 5A state tournament.
Duplicating Monday’s scores consistently is unlikely, but it’s a possibility every time the Tigers take the course this fall.
Montrose coach Angelo DeJulio was impressed by what the Tigers did Monday and not the least bit surprised.
“Grand Junction is going to be tough to beat,” said DeJulio, whose squad shot a respectable 228 for third place.
He added Grand Junction’s ability to score low helps the rest of the Western Slope teams because it pushes them to be better.
Montrose couldn’t match the Tigers on Monday, but DeJulio saw some encouraging signs from his players, who all shot 82 or better. Glen-Michael Mihavetz led the Indians with a 72, and Zane Sauer carded a 77 despite struggling at times. Rounding out the team score was Tanner Creel’s 79.
“Our goal starting the day was three scores in the 70s, and we got that,” DeJulio said. “I think it’s really going to help our confidence going along.”