Aspen High School senior Zoe Guthrie is about to tee it up for the third time at the state golf tournament, although this one will be a little bit different. Maybe she won’t notice it during her two rounds at Eagle Ranch, but before and after it will certainly be unique having two competing teammates there with her.
“It’s just really cool because it’s the first time in history that AHS has sent a whole girls golf team to state,” AHS junior Hailey Higdon said. “So it’s cool to be a part of that and get to say, ‘Hey, I made it to state.’”
According to AHS girls golf coach Martha Richards, who also happens to be the school’s athletic director, and current AHS boys coach Mary Woulfe, who coached the girls many years ago, this will be the first time in program history that AHS girls golf has sent enough players to state to be able to compete as a team.
The Skiers didn’t actually qualify as a team two weeks ago at regionals, held at Dos Rios Golf Club in Gunnison, but Guthrie, Higdon and fellow junior Avery Hirsch all made the field as individuals, allowing them to compete for a team score at state. The Class 3A tournament gets underway Monday and concludes Tuesday in Eagle, weather permitting.
“I love having Martha around and she’s really tried to bring us all together as more of a team rather than playing as individuals, which I really like,” Guthrie said. “She has helped me develop more technique in my game rather than the basics. It’s been great having her and I’m really happy we are all going together as a team.”
Guthrie was the lone state qualifier for Aspen these past two seasons. She finished 23rd as a sophomore, shooting 47-over 189 (101-88) over the two days. As a junior last spring, Guthrie finished tied for 24th at 43-over (92-93). The 2017 season was the first where there was a Class 3A for girls golf.
Hirsch narrowly missed qualifying for state last spring, but it was really Higdon’s development that helped round out the team. Hailey’s sister, Julia, also wasn’t far off from qualifying for the tournament in Eagle.
“All four of them have made such big contributions this year, and quite honestly Maddie Madril and Tessa Guthrie, they all contributed, as well,” Richards said. “Sometimes the contributions are only seen by the three scores that count, but the stuff that goes on in the background is a big deal. I think it means a lot. I hope what it does is it gives them a great experience, but I hope it also gets all the little girls in town excited about golf, too. That’s probably a big part of this is we want to help grow the game.”
Richards is coaching the team for the first time this spring, having taken over for PGA teaching pro Don Buchholz, who moved to Florida in the fall. Richards certainly has the resume for the job, having been the former head coach at the University of Vanderbilt, where she was the 2004 Golfweek national coach of the year, and later at the University of Texas. She also had a short stint on the LPGA Tour.
What Richards inherited was the challenge of the girls golf season in the mountains. The team essentially didn’t have a home course to play on until around regionals, and Richards had to get creative in finding ways for the players to develop their skills.
“It’s definitely a lot easier to learn how to play golf with a golf course, but the drills do help, definitely, because you get the practice of putting and chipping,” Hailey Higdon said. “There was kind of a shift in the dynamic of how we worked as a team. We started weight training and we practiced every day of the week, so there was more emphasis on practicing. We just became more of a team this year.”
The weather for the two-day tournament in Eagle doesn’t look promising, with a winter weather warning recently being issued for the area. According to a statement by CHSAA, only 18 completed holes will be needed to determine a state champion. With heavy snow possible Monday night, Tuesday’s second round could end up being canceled.
“We can’t control our bounces and stuff like that, but we can control our pre-shot routine and our mental mindset,” Richards said. “I want to see them take the stuff we’ve been working on all season and continue to put it into practice. We’ve spent a lot of time working on pre-shot routine, which is critical in competition because it’s what calms you; it’s what focuses you.”
Guthrie will be the first to tee off Monday with the 9:42 a.m. time slot on the 10th hole. Hirsch (9:51 a.m.) and Higdon (10 a.m.) will follow in succession.
There will be a new individual champion in 3A this season. Holy Family junior Hailey Schalk won the state title each of the past two seasons, but her team moved up to 4A this spring. Colorado Academy will be going for its third straight state championship in 3A. The Mustangs won with a collective 62-over-par over two rounds last spring.
“It’s really exciting,” Hirsch said. “I’m glad I’m going with these two girls that I have become pretty close with. It’s going to be fun.”
ASPEN’S CUSIMANO TIES FOR 44th AT SENIOR WOMEN’S OPEN
Aspen’s Dede Cusimano finished tied for 44th at the 2019 U.S. Senior Women’s Open golf tournament, which concluded Sunday at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in North Carolina.
Cusimano, the 59-year-old who runs her own golf academy at Aspen Golf Club in the summer, was consistent over her four rounds. She shot a 29-over-par 313 for the tournament, with rounds of 78, 79, 79 and 77. Cusimano has played in seven majors over her career, but this was her first at the senior level.
Sweden’s Helen Alfredsson won the tournament by two strokes over Juli Inkster and Trish Johnson, finishing at 1-over. Alfredsson is a two-time U.S. Women’s Open runner-up.