Basalt eyeing state golf title | AspenTimes.com

Basalt eyeing state golf title

Jon Maletz

The Basalt golf team is peaking, and it could not have come at a better time.The Longhorns finished second out of 21 teams at Wednesday’s regional in Craig to advance to the state golf championship Oct. 3 and 4 at Denver’s Wellshire Golf Club. Basalt’s score of 227 was one stroke off that of first-place Steamboat Springs. Aspen finished third with a 237. Only the top two teams in each regional compete in Denver.It was the Longhorns’ third second-place finish in 11 tournaments this fall. The team also won two events, the most recent win coming in convincing fashion Sept. 12 at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale.”We, the parents and the school are very thrilled,” Basalt head coach Pat Riley said. “The course played tough, but it was just our day.” A young Longhorns team battled nerves and difficult conditions at the Yampa Valley golf course. Wind and rain pummeled the players throughout the round but did little to slow the slick, undulating greens. The Longhorns were lucky to get off the course before wind and rains inundated the course at 5 p.m., Riley said. Play was not suspended.Sophomore Connor Rakowski took third overall with a 73, and sophomore James Knous fired a 77. Aspen’s Teddy Karlinski shot a 70 but lost in a five-hole playoff with Paul Berry of Steamboat.Both Longhorns sophomores showed their age and inexperience early. Knous, the medalist at River Valley Ranch earlier this year, came off the ninth green after shooting a 41. Rakowski shot a 39 on the front. Riley caught up with both players in an attempt to improve their spirits – and their play.”James had a bad front nine, and I told him I wanted him to come out and finish with a 35. He had 36,” Riley said. “I told Connor to shoot a 35, and he finished with 34. I’ll take credit for that, but the kids went out and did it.” Knous, who became an all-conference honorable-mention selection earlier this week, eagled the par-5 10th. Rakowski earned second-team all-conference honors. Riley had an idea what he would get out of his top young stars. Impressive and somewhat unexpected play from Nick Johnson, however, was the major factor that propelled the Longhorns into second and into their first state tournament appearance in more than five years.Johnson matched Knous with a 77. The junior picked a good time to fire his first round of the year in the 70s.”I usually follow the No. 1 and 2 on the course, but I asked Nick how he was doing midway through his round,” Riley said. “He told me he was doing OK. I give credit to these kids for sticking to the program. I told them to focus on each stroke and we would take what comes in the end. Wednesday, the end was good.”Basalt will need Johnson to deliver another sterling performance in Denver, where the Longhorns face 16 teams from across the state.In preparation for Oct. 3, the Longhorns will practice next week with golf pro and former coach Doug Rohrbaugh at Ironbridge in Glenwood Springs. If recent history is any indication, Basalt will be ready.”I’ve already made hotel reservations, and made tee times for our practice round. We have to wait a whole week, so it’ll be important that we keep our game in shape,” Riley said. “We need to bide our time, but our golf team has peaked, and everything is coming together.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com