Basalt High boys golf looks to keep pace at 3A state tournament in Boulder | AspenTimes.com

Basalt High boys golf looks to keep pace at 3A state tournament in Boulder

The Basalt High School boys golf team, from left: Blake Exelbert, Tyler Sims, Tyler Dollahan and Holden Kleager. This foursome will represent the Longhorns at the Class 3A state golf tournament on Monday and Tuesday at the Boulder Country Club.

Of the four golfers who will represent Basalt High School on Monday and Tuesday at the state tournament in Boulder, only Tyler Sims actually attends classes in the midvalley. The other three go to Glenwood Springs High School, which doesn't have a golf team.

For Sims, who also happens to be the youngest of the four, it is a situation he's more than happy to embrace.

"It means a lot. I think it's awesome that I'm the only one representing Basalt. I think I can handle it," the sophomore said. "I'm a little nervous. I'm excited. I'm really excited, actually. I know there is going to be a lot of pressure and I'm looking forward to handling it."

Sims just missed out on making the regional squad as a freshman a year ago. He's put together a solid run this fall, doing enough to join seniors Holden Kleager and Tyler Dollahan, as well as junior Blake Exelbert, at Boulder Country Club early next week. Sims tied for 16th at the regional tournament on Sept. 17 at Dos Rios Golf Club in Gunnison.

"He had a little bit of nerves at regionals, and I'm sure he'll feel them again, but having experienced that, he put together a really good back nine just to come with us," first-year BHS coach Joseph Fries said of Sims. "The experience for him will be good."

Dollahan led the Longhorns at regionals, finishing 7-over-par to take sixth overall. He attended school in Glenwood through eighth grade before attending Valor Christian in Denver his first three years of high school. Dollahan was part of back-to-back 4A state championships in baseball as a sophomore and junior with the Eagles.

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"I started out pretty average. I didn't play that much golf last year," Dollahan said. "Most of my buddies were on the team, so I just joined to have a fun senior year and hang out with them. Then I sort of got better as the year went on, so it's been fun."

Kleager and Exelbert are coming in with the state experience for the Longhorns. Exelbert went to state for the first time last fall as a sophomore, where he shot 13-over 85 to finish in a tie for 49th at Indian Peaks Golf Course in Lafayette.

Last year's tournament was condensed to one day after rainy weather left the course unplayable for the first round.

"Last year, it was tricky. The nerves were going crazy, so it was hard to stay consistent and not get in my head," Exelbert said. "But going into this year and playing in more tournaments with better players, it built my confidence. So I'm happy and excited to go and hopefully compete well this year."

If anyone can make a run toward the top of 3A in Boulder next week, it's Kleager. His older brother, Linc, was a standout on the team only a few years ago and currently plays at Doane University in Nebraska. Holden Kleager has made the state tournament all four years, although he finished with a disappointing 16-over 88 and a tie for 61st at state last year. Holden, who won the regional championship as a sophomore, had his best state finish as a freshman, where he shot 11-over over the two days to tie for sixth in Eagle.

"I know what's coming, so I can prepare for it better," Holden Kleager said. "I've been hitting the ball all right, but the last two weeks after regionals I've figured it out and I'm playing real well right now."

Kleager said he is aiming for a top-five finish in Boulder, which Fries said is certainly in his wheelhouse. The Longhorns finished 10th as a team in 2017. Basalt never has won a team state championship in boys golf, but does have an individual state champion as recently as 2013, when Tristan Rohrbaugh won 3A by four strokes.

Basalt understands a state championship this year could be difficult. It has played alongside Aspen High School all season, a team that is among the frontrunners, if not the favorite, to win the state championship. AHS has never won a state title in golf.

"For us at regionals, it was a pretty good grind. Most of the guys started off pretty poorly and they found a way to right the ship," Fries said. "We also know we are pretty good. At our best, I'm not going to say we can hang with (Aspen), but we can come pretty darn close. As a team, I think top five is realistic. Not many teams have four guys, and I think that obviously plays into our hands. But I'd be happy with improving on last year."

Kleager will be the first on the course for the Longhorns on Monday. He tees of from hole No. 10 at 9 a.m.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

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