Longhorns golfers a work in progress | AspenTimes.com

Longhorns golfers a work in progress

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BATTLEMENT MESA, Colo. ” Wondering what the two-time defending regional champion Basalt golf team will do for an encore in 2008? Thursday’s tournament at Battlement Mesa Golf Club provided few, if any answers.

Just two of the Longhorns’ five players competed in the season’s first match. And newly minted no. 1 Marty Knous struggled, finishing 11th after shooting a lackluster 86.

“We have a lot of young guys with not a lot of experience,” first-year head coach Steve Knous said candidly. “Last year, we were dominant on the Western Slope, but we lost two really big dogs to graduation. … We don’t have a lot of real high expectations.”

Last year’s formidable duo of Jim Knous and Connor Rakowski have taken their games to the college level. Knous, who won nine off 11 regular-season tournaments and finished seventh at state last year, is playing at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. Rakowski, a multi-sport athlete who excelled despite injury last year, will soon be vying for playing time at NAIA Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont.

Their notable departures have left more questions than answers of late. But one thing is certain: A year after being the team’s third option, Marty now tops the depth chart.

The soft-spoken junior who prefers to let his game do the talking has had little trouble making the transition thus far, his father said.

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“I think he kind of likes it, he’s looking forward to it,” Steve Knous added. “He’s a very calm guy. Jim always had a tendency to get quiet before a tournament, but Marty’s pretty even keeled. Everybody’s got their own approach.”

“It doesn’t feel much different,” Marty Knous said. “I’m just playing and seeing what happens.”

The junior played sparingly this summer because of work, and the rust showed Thursday. After pars on his first two holes ” Nos. 10 and 11 ” he triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. His second shot sailed over the green and landed in a bunker. It took two shots to find the green, then he three-putted.

“I feel like I was hitting the ball well, but I expected to do a lot better,” he said.

Knous had similar struggles with consistency in 2007. During a two-day stretch in August, the then-sophomore carded two quadruple bogeys and one triple en route to an 87, then posted a 3-over 73 to tie brother Jim for first place; he lost in a playoff.

“The consistency will come,” Steve Knous said. “I honestly think Marty has the potential to do really well as an individual against all the kids out there on the Western Slope.”

As to who will join his son in the team’s top three, Steve Knous said it’s “too early to tell.” He did, however, point to two players ” juniors Patrick Hall and Luke Newberry ” whom he expects to emerge in coming weeks. Hall broke 90 in his one tournament appearance in 2007.

The picture will be clearer next week when the Longhorns play four tournaments in four days.

The coach knows, however, that 2008 will be much different than 2007.

“It’s definitely a rebuilding year,” he said. “We’re going to try to get these guys a lot of experience and toward the end of the season string some good scores together. … I want them to go out there and just enjoy themselves.”

In other action Thursday, Coulter Young shot 87 for Aspen, which finished ninth. Omri Gildor finished with 97 and Tommy Doyle a 102 for the Skiers, who next tee off today at Fairway Pines Country Club in Ridgway.

We like the Funk

Longhorns golfers got quite the surprise Wednesday afternoon when they shared the Roaring Fork Club driving range with a seven-time PGA Tour winner.

Fred Funk, a fan favorite and 2005 winner of The Players Championship, not only introduced himself but he also led a 40-minute impromptu practice session. The experience had Basalt head coach Steve Knous gushing Thursday.

“He was out there working with the kids, hitting their drivers and showing them all this stuff,” Knous said. “It was the coolest thing.

“What a great guy. He’s got a reputation as the nicest guy on tour, and he certainly showed that to us.”

Funk finished second at last weekend’s U.S. Senior Open at the Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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