Aspen golf hoping for state-title shot | AspenTimes.com

Aspen golf hoping for state-title shot

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Post Independent fileExpectations are high for captain Jesse Beetham, seen here teeing it up in a tournament in Rifle last year, and the Aspen golf team.

ASPEN – The Aspen High golf team is set at No. 1 and 2. Success this fall likely will hinge on the Skiers’ ability to replace “Speedy.”

Last fall, then-senior Ryan Smith teamed with Jesse Beetham and Clayton Crawford to create one of the most formidable trios in the state. Their consistent play yielded seven wins in nine tournaments during one stretch, a runaway regional victory in which Aspen topped both the 3A and 4A fields and a runner-up finish at the state tournament.

Beetham and Crawford return to anchor a squad that once again has lofty aspirations. But to compete with six-time defending state champion Kent Denver in early October, head coach Mary Woulfe on Wednesday said the Skiers need someone to step up and fill Smith’s all-important role.

“The good thing about Ryan was that you knew he was always going to come in somewhere between 75 and 83. I never needed to worry about him,” Woulfe said. “He was so strong and could always recover from a couple bad holes. After a double, a triple, he’d be right back in the thick of things. He was such a levelheaded, stable guy.

“He and I have talked about who can fill his shoes. We’re going to have to wait and see, but I think three guys are capable and a fourth is knocking on the door.”

Added Beetham, “I expect to be at the state championship as a team. I feel like we have a group of guys that could do it if they put in the time and effort. I think they will. I hope they will. They have the game for it.”

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Seniors August So and Joseph Kistner could emerge as key contributors, although both struggled during Monday and Tuesday’s team qualifier. So carded an 87 and an 88, while Kistner rebounded after a 95 in Round 1 with an 83.

The player to watch is Will Hazen, the diminutive freshman who Woulfe said has a big game. Hazen won qualifying with an 85 and an 84. Crawford is taking part in a junior tournament in Longmont and did not compete, and Beetham was disqualified on Monday for playing a shot from an in-course, out-of-bounds area. He played Tuesday, however, and promptly fired a 68.

“Will is all of about 5 feet tall at most, so he’s struggling with distance and scrambling to get up and down like there’s no tomorrow,” Woulfe said. “The kid can play golf. I think he will be up for the challenge – his short game is amazing.”

Hazen will be joining Beetham, So and Kistner at today’s season-opening tournament at Battlement Mesa Golf Club in Parachute. So, too, will sophomore Trey Robinson, who recorded a 90 and an 88 in qualifying. (Crawford will join the team Monday at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction.)

“He played really well in some national tournaments this summer,” Woulfe said of Robinson. “I know he can shoot in the 80s regularly, so we’ll be looking at him to fill in some of the depth.

“We’re hoping some of these guys reach their peak at some point here. You can’t push it though; you just have to let it happen.”

Beetham hopes the team rounds into form as soon as possible.

“There is (a sense of urgency). My life is going by so fast. It seems like just yesterday I was in my first tournament back at Battlement,” the senior said. “I have a lot of goals for this year. I definitely want to win the state championship, I want to perform as well as I can in every tournament and hopefully win most of them. And my biggest goal is to be a college player, take it to the next level.

“I feel very confident in my myself, my game and this team. I feel pressure, but it’s good pressure. I’m going to cherish these moments.”

The road to the state tournament, which coincidentally will be hosted by Kent Denver at Pinehurst Country Club, will be more difficult this time around, Woulfe said. She expects her team to be tested often, particularly by downvalley rival Basalt, which boasts a talented trio of its own – Connor Rakowski, Tristan Rohrbaugh and Robert Pettit.

Then there’s the champion Sun Devils, who return their top four golfers, Woulfe said.

“We’re not going to take anything for granted,” she said. “Winning every individual tournament isn’t really the goal. We want to put up some great scores, get the team camaraderie going and try and inspire the younger players to play up to the level of the varsity.

“We don’t have as solid a chance as we did last year (to win state), but we have a shot. It’s golf, so you never know. Anything can happen.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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