Strong finishes help Rifle defend title on home course
Rough starts for several of its players were offset by strong finishes as Rifle High School defended its championship Thursday at the Rifle Invitational boys golf tournament.
The Bears benefitted from course familiarity at the par-72 Rifle Creek Golf Course, but sometimes being at home and expecting to do well can put pressure on players. Rifle coach Jordan Smith said that appeared to be the case early for several of his players, but they didn’t let the poor starts ruin their rounds.
Rifle finished with 232 strokes, four better than Grand Junction and Delta, to win the 18-team invite, and the Bears’ Ty Caron came a playoff hole away from winning the medalist honor. Caron matched Steamboat Springs’ Spencer Petersen with a 73 for the low score, but Petersen beat him on the first playoff hole to claim first place.
Caron obviously didn’t struggle, and the highlight of his round was an eagle on par-5 No. 17.
The story was different for Teig Hauer, Cody Capwell and Wyatt Carter as each struggled early.
Hauer had a quadruple bogey and triple bogey early, but he played the other 16 holes at 1-under to card a 78, tying him for 10th place.
“He was able to grind it out,” Smith said. “He’s done a good job of putting bad holes behind him.”
The same applied to Capwell and Carter.
Smith said he pulled Capwell aside with five holes to go and told him the team needed him to close strong. He did just that with a birdie and four pars to finish with an 81, which served as the Bears’ third score.
Carter was disappointed in his score early, “but he battled back,” Smith said of the 82 from the sophomore.
Grand Junction kept the pressure on Rifle with a pair of top-10 individual finishes from Donny Kinnaman, who placed fifth with a 75, and Trevor Olkowski, whose 77 tied for seventh.
“Scores were not far from what I expected,” Tigers coach Tom LeFebre said. “Rifle’s a tough golf course because there are a few holes there you have to be smart and manage.”
Kinnaman’s ball striking had him in position to challenge for medalist, but his putter betrayed him to the tune of four three-putts.
LeFebre said Kinnaman’s a good putter, but, “Everybody who plays golf goes through that. When he gets that worked out, he’ll be right where he needs to be.”
Delta matched the Tigers’ team score of 236, thanks to Keaton Reiher’s 74, which tied him with Fruita Monument’s Troy Dangler for third place. Tyler Garcia added a 78 for the Panthers.
“We played really well,” Delta coach Marty Rover said. “We have those two seniors, Keaton and Tyler, then four to five freshmen after that.”
Freshman Blake Reiher shot an 84 to count as the Panthers’ third scorer Thursday.
Fruita Monument, led by Dangler, finished fourth as a team with 237 strokes. Jacob Johnson joined Dangler in the top 10 with a 77.