Wildcats finish second in the Tiger Invitational

Grand Junction High School’s Donny Kinnaman unloads a shot from the No. 8 tee box. Steamboat Springs won the team title while Fruita Monument finished second.

Hayden Plewe from Montezuma Cortez High School hits out of a sand trap Monday on the 18th hole at Bookcliff Country Club during the Tiger Invitational golf tournament.

Early-season high school golf tournaments can be a challenge all by themselves.

Throw in the wind whipping around the Bookcliff County Club golf course Monday and the 18 teams on hand for the Grand Junction Tiger Invitational boys tourney had their work cut out for them as they tried to keep their scores down.

With that in mind, the Fruita Monument boys as a team and Palisade senior Kyler Smith as an individual were fine with settling for second place. In both cases, Steamboat Springs set the pace. The Sailors won the meet with 231 strokes, three ahead of Fruita Monument and Aspen, and medalist Brandon Martin paced that effort with a 72, three strokes better than Smith and Basalt’s Tristan Rohrbaugh.

“I was very pleased with the boys,” said Fruita coach Dave Fox, whose squad last week won the team title in its first outing: the 15-team Grand Valley Invitational. “I thought we battled the weather and the slow start. ... This is a good course. I think it challenges you a great deal, and just fighting through the wind today was tough.”

Senior Will Berg, playing in the No. 1 spot, paced the Wildcats with a 77 and tied for sixth individually, while senior Kelin Henke in the No. 5 spot carded a 78. Fox praised both for their performances.

Henke might have led the way if not for a pair of double-bogeys to close the shotgun-format tourney.

“I think he’d like to have those back,” Fox said.

Berg said his score could have been better, but in the wind, he wasn’t complaining. More over, the wind was constantly changing before becoming stronger and steadier in the final hour of the event.

“You didn’t know how much it was going to affect shots, how much it would knock it down,” he said. “The course was in great shape, probably the best it’s been all year. The greens were nice, but I didn’t putt very well.”

No. 17, Berg said, was particularly brutal for most players.

“People were hitting driver into a 35 mile per hour wind,” he said of the 225-yard, par-3.

Berg said he hit a hybrid club close and parred the hole, to which he added, “Par there was a really good score.”

Count Smith among the less fortunate on No. 17, where he three-putted and shot double-bogey.

He said he putted well overall, despite that hole and despite the wind affecting that part of his game more than his drives and approaches.

“Mainly with putting it gets in your head,” Smith said, mentioning the wind causes the body to sway, and determining how much it would speed up or slow down the ball’s roll was tough to determine.

Smith wishes he’d done on the back nine what he accomplished on the front: getting up and down frequently to shoot 1-under. The back nine ended with a 5-over 41, and there his approaches betrayed him.

“I wasn’t hitting the greens,” he said.

Still, second place was acceptable, especially on the heels of tying for second Thursday at the Grand Valley Invitational at Battlement Mesa Golf Club.

“At Battlement it was mainly my tee shots (costing strokes). My approach shots weren’t there today,” he said. “I just need to put it all together.”

Montrose finished fourth in the team standings with a 238, while Grand Junction tied Rifle for sixth at 243. In addition to the wind, Grand Junction has to contend with youth. The Tigers have four sophomores and a junior on varsity.

“Two of those sophomores don’t have a lot of varsity experience,” Tigers coach Tom LeFebre said. “Our team scores will be better. We’re definitely going to play better as the year goes on.”

Sophomore Donny Kinnaman paced Grand Junction with a 77.

“I had a couple of bad swings, and unfortunately they cost me the most,” Kinnaman said, adding on a better day with good conditions he’s capable of going below 70 at Bookcliff.


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