Friday’s opening round of the Western Slope Triple Play was Elly Walters’ first day of competitive golf in several years.
Walters was a two-sport star at Rifle High School, dominating both on the hardwood and on the links for the Bears. She represented Rifle at the 2018 Class 3A state golf tournament during her senior year and was one of the Western Slope’s most consistent prep golfers.
However, when she enrolled at Regis University, she decided to stick with basketball after averaging more than 16 points and seven rebounds as a senior. She was the Western Slope League Player of the Year twice, an All-State honorable mention selection twice and made the Western Slope League All-Conference team all four years.
“I love basketball and everything, and going into college, I had 4 years left to play basketball,” Walters said. “Golf? You can play that your whole life. That’s what led me to want to play basketball and everything.”
After one year at Regis, in which she started 20 games, she opted to transfer to Colorado Mesa University and play for the program that her father, Roger, coached from 2009-2012.
After one season with the Mavericks’ basketball team, she opted for another change of pace, hanging up her sneakers to return to golfing. She’s now a member of CMU’s women’s golf team. Her older sister, Taylor, played golf for the Mavs from 2013-2017.
“I had two really great years (playing basketball), but I needed to kind of find my happiness,” Walters said. “I got a little off last year and needed to make a change. I’ve always loved golf and everything, and it ended up being the perfect year to do it with everything going on with the coronavirus. It worked out.”
During her basketball days, she didn’t have many opportunities to golf, and the few chances she did have were in the summer. She would play in non-competitive tournaments with Roger or Taylor for the fun of it. However, she was in the gym much more than she was on the course.
Now that she’s made the full-time switch back to golf, she’s getting back into the swing of competitive play. Friday at Redlands Mesa Golf Course was her second competitive event since high school.
“I played in my first competitive tournament last week and I hadn’t played in something like that since state my senior year,” Walters said. “It was like a whole different feeling of adrenaline. This tournament plays different than just going out and playing with my family. That was a lot different. It was good to get back into the groove of things. You always have those nerves. It was good, though.”
The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference hasn’t made a decision yet regarding the status of fall sports because of the coronavirus, but should golf get the green light to begin in September as it usually does, a summer of competitive golfing will have Walters ready to pick up where she left off in Rifle.
“My goal is to play in as many tournaments as I can this year because you just can’t duplicate tournament play,” Walters said. “Obviously, it’s good to practice and stuff, but it just doesn’t quite translate the same. The more tournaments I can play in, the better off I’ll be.”
Going into today’s final round, Walters is tied with Annette Gaiotti for fourth place in the championship flight with a total score of 13-over-par 156. Two-time defending champion Kim Eaton is in strong position to win another title, leading the field at 1-under 142. Jessica Smith is second at 7-over 150 and Kareen Larson is third at 12-over 155.
Ericka Martinez leads by five shots in the first flight and Joni Hornbeck has a five-stroke lead in the second flight.
Tournament organizer Vicki Riley enters today with a seven-stroke advantage in the third flight.
In the fourth flight, Michelle Marquardt leads April Branstetter by two shots.