This one counted

Miller fires 71 to capture Wildcat Invite

Fruita Monument’s Will Berg tees off on the 12th hole Monday in the Wildcat Invitational. Berg finished second and the Wildcats won the title.

Stupid lightning.

Palisade High School junior Skyler Miller was two holes away from likely shooting par last Thursday and perhaps claiming medalist honors in Pagosa Springs.

He was about to card the breakout round that had eluded him two weeks into the season. Then, lightning ended everyone’s day, and it might as well have disintegrated Miller’s scorecard. His stellar play was for naught, amounting to nothing more than 16 fine practice holes.

But they set the tone for what was to come four days later, when Miller, not Mother Nature, lit up the Golf Club at Redlands Mesa course. Miller fired a 1-under-par 71 on Monday to win the Wildcat Invitational boys golf tournament by four strokes.

“I hit pretty well today,” he said. “Off the tee I hit well and put myself in position to hit greens and attack the flags. I hit a lot of greens (in regulation) today and putted well.”

Miller said he plays Redlands Mesa three times a year, so he has enough knowledge to avoid the pitfalls that can befuddle the uninitiated.

He also has the short game to thrive there, said Fruita Monument High School senior Will Berg, who finished second Monday with a 75 to lead the host Wildcats to the tourney’s team title by 10 strokes over Palisade.

“He has a pretty good short game,” Berg said, “and if you have a good short game, you can score on this course. He’s a good putter.”

Berg wished he could say the same for himself Monday, but after a strong start with the flat stick, needing a mere seven putts on the first six holes, his putter betrayed him. He needed 25 putts on the remaining 12 holes.

“I was pushing and pulling everything,” he said.

Berg’s final score still provided some satisfaction at a course he estimated he played 10 times during the summer.

“This is the best round I’ve had out here. It was a lot better,” he said. “And it could’ve been a whole lot better. I’ll take it.”

Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said Redlands Mesa generally saddles teams with higher scores, and that was the case for the Wildcats. But his veteran team continues to deliver at least three good individual scores each time out, giving the Wildcats their third victory in six tournaments this season.

Fox singled out Berg for his consistency and praised Hunter Emerson for his resilience in shooting a 77. Emerson, Fox said, was 4-over when he caught fire and birdied holes 12 through 15 to get to even. He followed that with a hiccup at No. 16.

“He took a nine on (No.) 16,” Fox said. “I was proud of him then turning around and parring his last hole.”

Fox also praised Palisade and its coach, Jan Norell, for the Bulldogs’ runner-up finish. In addition to Miller, Kyler Smith shot a 76, but the Bulldogs’ third score was a 93.

“I’m really proud of Jan,” Fox said. “She’s doing a good job there. ... If they had a third (consistent scorer), they probably would have won it today.”

Norell said her team was playing well at Pagosa Springs, too, when the lightning arrived.

“We’re on the right track,” she said. “Kyler and Skyler have been working hard, and the rest of the team is working hard to get that third man.”

Rifle High School finished third, led by Ty Caron’s 80.

Central finished fourth in the nine-team meet, paced by Preston Grandbouche’s 76, which tied him for fourth individually with Grand Junction’s Donny Kinnaman. The Tigers finished sixth as a team.


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