Wildcats ready for state golf tourney

Fruita Monument’s Troy Dangler watches a tee shot on the par-5 sixth hole Aug. 30 at Cobble Creek Golf Community in Montrose.


Seven local players will be in the field of the CHSAA Class 5A state golf tournament, which takes place Monday and Tuesday at The Club at Rolling Hills in Golden.

Four of those players are from Fruita Monument, which qualified as a team for the state meet.

The following is a brief look at each player, plus their low round of the season and number of tournament wins:

Preston Grandbouche, sr., Central

According to Warriors coach Mike Hirons, Grandbouche has a well-rounded game with a great swing, a great short game, and he’s a good putter. He’s also a smart player who keeps his emotions in check on the course and doesn’t let a bad hole affect his next one.

In preparation for state, Grandbouche said, “This whole week has been putting, a lot of putting,” focusing particularly on his alignment of putts. At state, he added, “The 10-footers, you’ve got to make them.”

Low round: 70. Wins: 1.


Will Berg, sr., Fruita Monument

According to Wildcats coach Dave Fox, Berg “bombs it off the tee box, and he typically has a real solid iron game.” He’s a good putter, but it’s the one area where, if he could get a few more putts to drop, he’d consistently be at par or lower.

“I’m hitting the ball as well as I ever have,” Berg said Thursday. “Mainly the putting and the short game I’ve been working on.”

Entering the tourney, his goal is to play the best golf he can. If he does that, he said, “It should be pretty good.”

Low round: 72. Wins: 1.


Troy Dangler, fr., Fruita Monument

Fox said Dangler is a Golf Channel devotee who is as confident as they come. That’s easily understood, given his swing. “For a little guy, he hits it a long way off the tee box, and he’s good around the green,” Fox said.

While the Rolling Hills course will be new to Dangler, playing on the Front Range will not be. Many of the faces in the 5A field will be familiar to him because he’s played many Colorado Junior Golf Association events in the Denver area during the past two summers. Because of that, he said he’s trying to approach state like he would any other tournament.

Low round: 69. Wins: 2.


Hunter Emerson, sr., Fruita Monument

Fox said Emerson is another player who hits long drives, but he also called him “kind of a shot-maker” and the Wildcats’ most consistent putter. When Emerson is focused, he shoots low numbers, Fox said, and Emerson agreed with his coach’s assessment.

“My confidence is really what helps me,” Emerson said, adding he worked on his putting and short game entering this season, and his ability to stay focused improved. As a result, he said, “My scores improved.”

Low round: 72. Wins: none.


Kelin Henke, sr., Fruita Monument

Henke played in the No. 4 spot on the team and had his share of times scoring in the Wildcats’ top three. He’s a quiet kid, but competitive and determined, and that stands out about him, Fox said. He’s a baseball guy, Fox added, “and what I like about Kelin is I know how hard he’s going to compete.”

“It’s just kind of in my blood to compete,” Henke added.

His approach to the game is straight forward, “just going out there and knowing you’re going to hit the ball well each and every shot,” he said.

Low round: 75. Wins: none.


Donny Kinnaman, soph., Grand Junction

Tigers coach Tom LeFebre says Kinnaman is an excellent ball striker, able to hit draws, fades, high shots, low shots, etc. “You don’t see that very often in golfers his age,” LeFebre said. “He controls the golf ball as well as any high school golfer I’ve seen.”

Kinnaman, who qualified for state a year ago and placed 23rd, said he enters state expecting to play well. He comes off a victory at the 5A regional in Colorado Springs in which he shot 15 pars, two birdies and bogey, an effort he’d like to duplicate at Rolling Hills. “I’m going to try to make a bunch of pars, because that’s what it’s going to take to win,” he said.

Low round: 72. Wins: 1.


Greg Gibson, soph., Grand Junction

LeFebre said Gibson does everything pretty well. “His ball striking is good, he putts well, he chips well,” LeFebre said. “When the pressure is on, he comes through in the clutch … he’s able to handle pressure.” For example: Gibson won a one-hole playoff to earn the final individual state berth at the regional.

Gibson said his goal this season was to make it to state. Now that he’s done it, his new goal is to play well there. He said he’s not placing any expectations on himself, but “to shoot two rounds in the 70s would be great.”

Low round: 73. Wins: 1.

As Kelin Henke prepared to tee off on Hole No. 1 at Lincoln Park Golf Course on Thursday, Fruita Monument boys golf coach Dave Fox predicted what was to come.

He’s a baseball player, Fox said, so it will be a low line drive to center field. Henke stepped up to his ball and hit: a low line drive down the middle of the fairway.

Fox wishes coaching was always that easy. It isn’t. And golf in particular is prone to unpredictable fluctuations, so the Wildcats are entering the CHSAA Class 5A state golf tournament with no expectations. No pressure.

“I’ve really tried to play this really low-key,” said Fox, whose four-member squad won its regional in Colorado Springs to earn a team berth at state. “I just want them to go over (to Golden) and enjoy it.”

The philosophy is firmly embedded in the Wildcats, a group of three seniors — Will Berg, Hunter Emerson and Kelin Henke — and a freshman, Troy Dangler, who all are making their first state-meet appearance. They all spoke of playing the best they can and seeing how that measures up.

The Wildcats may be low-key, but they believe in themselves. Their five tournament wins this season were a product of talent and balance. When one player had a bad day, another made up for it.
“One thing that’s been a big advantage for us is having four guys who’ve all thrown down a low score at some point,” Fox said “That balance has given us a lot of confidence.”

The Wildcats also know they’re capable of shooting lower as a team, and they hope state brings it forth. In particular, putting can improve. Berg left many tournaments with scores around 74 or 75, and if a few more putts had dropped, he would have shot par or better. Dangler can say the same thing. Each has taken recent measures to sharpen their putting for state.

Berg has met with his swing coach, Dan Summers.

“I worked with him on the putting stroke, making it more fluid,” Berg said. “It’s working out a lot better so far.”

Dangler recently switched to a belly putter. He had been inconsistent with his regular putter and decided to try the belly putter at a tournament in Durango and did well with it. He said anchoring the longer putter in his chest is more stable, making it easier to achieve the pendulum swing desired in putting.

“Now it’s in the bag,” he said. “I’m feeling a lot more confident. I haven’t necessarily seen results yet. ... It’s basically just a confidence builder.”

Last-chance satisfaction

Getting to state for the first time as a senior is gratifying, as the Wildcats senior trio attested.

Berg came close previously, missing the cut by a stroke last year.

“It means a lot,” he said matter-of-factly. “It’s what I’ve been working for the past four years. Also, to have the team go there means a lot.”

Emerson was more emotional in his response.

“It means so much to me,” he said. “I’ve worked for two years, hard. I just wanted to make it my senior year. I went out there (at the regional), had fun and put up a low number. ... That was my goal senior year, and more importantly we got our team to state.”

Phenomenal freshman

Dangler opened his freshman campaign with a tourney win, and his ability has been praised many times by other coaches during the season. His teammates chimed in Thursday.

“He has the most ability of all of us,” Emerson said.

“He’s going to be super-good,” Berg said.

Grand entrance

Berg remembers being a freshman on Fruita’s varsity team and how he got there.

“At freshman tryouts I think I shot 72 and 72,” Berg said. “I don’t think I’d ever shot better than 80 before that.”

Self-made man

Add Central High School’s Preston Grandbouche to the group of seniors qualifying for state for the first time.

First-year Central coach Mike Hirons said he inherited a player that didn’t require much coaching from him.

“I’ll be honest with you,” he said, “he’s done pretty much all of what he’s done on his own.”

That includes practicing enough to knock six to eight strokes off his scoring average from a year ago, Hirons said.

Grandbouche was the regional runner-up, shooting a 73, and Hirons said Grandbouche’s swing was dialed in that day.

“If he hits the ball like he did last week, he’s going to surprise some people” at state, Hirons said.

He also might provide a college a pleasant surprise, as Hirons said Grandbouche is considering playing at the next level.

“He’s a diamond in the rough,” Hirons said. “If someone picks up on him, they’re going to be glad they did.”


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