Led by Rigney, Aspen High boys golf team makes big strides at home tournament

Aspen High School sophomore Ryan Rigney, center, chats with teammates following the Skiers Invitational on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at Aspen Golf Club. Rigney led AHS by finishing in a tie for second place overall, only a shot behind the tournament winner.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

For a few minutes after his round, Aspen High School’s Ryan Rigney thought he had at least tied for the win at the Skiers Invitational on Monday at Aspen Golf Club. But like a buzzer-beater in basketball, Steamboat Springs senior Colin Kagan rolled into the clubhouse while correcting an error on his electronic scorecard, his final tally of 73 besting Rigney and Steamboat junior Michael Dinapoli by a stroke.

Nothing to fret about, says the young Rigney, as the sophomore was plenty happy with his 3-over-par 74 and the general improvement seen across the board from the AHS boys golf team.

“I had a good day. Nothing I can really do. Colin played great and props to him. But definitely a tough pill to swallow, seeing how he came out of nowhere. But it’s fine,” Rigney said. “I got a few more tournaments to go, a few more chances to prove myself.”

As a team, Aspen finished third overall in its lone home tournament of the fall. The Skiers shot a collective 239, finishing 12 back of fellow 3A powerhouse Colorado Academy (227). Steamboat Springs, out of Class 4A, shot 225 to take the win.

It was the best showing of the season so far for Aspen, which had gotten off to a slow start during their busy stretch of tournaments last week. This wasn’t surprising considering the Skiers have a brand new lineup compared to their state championship team from last fall. Seniors Will Stiller, Lucas Lee and Nic Pevny — the team’s star who won the program’s first individual state championship as a junior and now plays for the University of Denver — have graduated. The fourth member of that squad, junior Sky Sosna, isn’t with the team this fall.

So, players like Rigney, with limited varsity experience, have had to step up this season and carry on the program’s championship pedigree — AHS won its first state championship as a team back in 2018.

Players tee off during the Skiers Invitational on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at Aspen Golf Club.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“We are here to prove people wrong, I guess, because everyone thought that with the loss of Nic, Will, Lucas, and all of our top four, it will be a totally different team and we wouldn’t be as in contention as we are,” Rigney said. “The knowledge that everyone on our team can go low and can do it, I think we are here to show everyone that we are still the same Aspen, even if we don’t have the same names.”

AHS senior Peter de Wetter, playing on Aspen’s second varsity team, had a strong showing Monday, shooting 78, second-best among the Skiers to tie for ninth place. Junior Miles Butera shot 82 to tie for 16th place, junior Sasha Forman shot 83 to tie for 18th place, and sophomore Jack Carolan shot 84 to tie for 23rd place.

AHS senior Carson Miller shot 88 to tie for 33rd place, junior Aidan Tracey shot 92 to finish in 44th, freshman Leo Roennau shot 95 to tie for 49th, junior Nik Kuhn shot 96 to tie for 51st, and sophomore Dominik Montalbano shot 109 to finish in 61st place.

An Aspen player lines up a putt during the Skiers Invitational on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at Aspen Golf Club.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen’s five-man “A” team on Monday consisted of Rigney, Butera, Forman, Carolan and Miller, all players vying to be part of the four-man regional squad at the end of the season. De Wetter, while playing for that second varsity group, is certainly a strong regional candidate as well.

“Definitely helped me substantially as far as getting over the hump of knowing that I can compete with these top guys,” Rigney said of his round on Monday and the confidence it gave him. “I can play with them and if I play my game, I’ll be all right. That definitely helped. But seeing as our team did well, that helped my mind substantially even more so … everyone is honing in and getting ready for this regional tournament and it’s great to see.”

Should the weather hold up, Aspen is scheduled to play again Tuesday at Basalt High School’s home tournament, held at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale. Like it did in 2020, RVR will host this year’s regional tournament on Sept. 20, stepping in for another site that had to cancel. This means Tuesday’s round will provide the AHS players with the rare in-season chance to familiarize themselves with the course that will determine who goes to state.

“Everyone is getting ready and really it’s all preparation for regionals,” Rigney said of the in-season tournaments. “That round (Tuesday at RVR), I’m thinking of it more as a practice round than a real tournament. Because everything comes and goes with this regional tournament. This is just another chance to see the course before it happens and to really test how I can play it, how our team can play it, and how we can do.”

Basalt, which had gotten off to a much better start this season than even the Skiers, didn’t fare quite as well on Monday in Aspen, tying for fifth as a team with Vail Mountain after shooting a collective 247. Eagle Valley, another bigger 4A school, was solo fourth at 242.

Sophomore Jackson Stewart, the son of coach Travis Stewart, led the Longhorns by shooting 78 to finish in that four-way tie for ninth place. Junior Garrett Exelbert shot 80 to finish 14th, junior Alec Claassen shot 89 to tie for 36th, junior Jase Joslin shot 90 to finish 42nd, and junior Ian Cole shot 94 to tie for 46th place.