Basalt golfer wins first tournament as pro | AspenTimes.com

Basalt golfer wins first tournament as pro

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

The way he is playing right now, Jim Knous insists anything is possible.

The Basalt golfer proved that Sunday in his first tournament as a professional.

With father Steve on the bag in the final round of the Navajo Trail Open at Durango’s Hillcrest Golf Club, Knous wound up firing a 4-under par 67 and posting a three-day total of 9-under – good for a two-shot victory.

Day 2 leader Brad Besler and Kane Webber tied for second at 7-under.

“It was such a great moment, so exciting. It was awesome having my dad there on Father’s Day,” Knous said Wednesday from Farmington, N.M., where he’s preparing for the upcoming San Juan Open. “I’m sure every tournament isn’t going to be that easy, and I’m not going to win everything, but boy it feels good to start that way.”

The recent Colorado School of Mines graduate and Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference player of the year established the early pace Friday with a first-round 67. By virtue of a second-round 70, Knous secured a spot in the final four-man pairing Sunday.

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He trailed Besler by two strokes.

“There were definitely some nerves – it was such a heated battle. I got paired with last year’s champion, the guy who was in the lead and another great player, Kane Webber,” Knous said. “I knew I had to play a really good round of golf. I was thinking 65 or 66 was what I was going to need.

“Really, the mind-set going out there was that this was my first tournament and I had nothing to lose. I wanted to go out there, be super aggressive and fire at pins.”

That plan was tempered somewhat because of the howling wind Knous encountered on the first tee. Still, he wasted little time climbing the leaderboard. After two opening pars, he grabbed a share of the lead with birdies at No. 3

and 4.

Things took a turn for the worse at the par-3 fifth, however. His tee shot landed below the hole, and then Knous’ ensuing putt rolled well past the cup. He missed the comebacker for par and an uphill attempt for bogey.

“It was pretty demoralizing, to be kind,” Knous said. “The Hillcrest greens are pretty intense, pretty slopey.

“I always try to keep a positive attitude – I believe a good mind-set is the best way to be competitive at this level. I just kept telling myself there were a lot of holes left, there were birdies to be made and I had to keep trudging.”

He did just that, birdying the par-4 8th and walking away with a solid par save at the tricky ninth.

Knous drilled his tee shot at the drivable par-4 11th well over the green with a

3-wood, but he got up and down for birdie. He then nailed a 30-foot downhill birdie putt at No. 13.

“I just saw the line and boom, I nailed it,” Knous said.

His most important putt likely came at No. 16, where he birdied from the fringe. Besler followed with a birdie of his own to stay within one stroke of the lead.

Knous’ second shot at the par-5 17th narrowly missed bounding out of play. He missed his birdie putt but did convert a 5-foot tester for par.

“That was scary,” he admitted. “My heart was racing.”

The final hole was not quite as stressful. He split the fairway with a booming drive while Besler’s tee shot sailed right and into the trees, forcing him to punch out short of the green.

Besler wound up making bogey. Knous calmly two-putted from 20 feet to secure victory.

“My first putt was within 2 feet of the hole, which took all the pressure off,” Knous said. “I took a deep breath and said to myself, ‘All right, I’ve got this.'”

The tap in helped Knous secure his fourth victory in his last five tournaments (his lone loss came in a playoff at May’s NCAA Division II Championships in Kentucky) and a check for $5,500.

“That’s going straight into the bank account. I’m broke,” he joked.

He’ll be looking to keep his hot streak going today in the first of four rounds in New Mexico.

“My biggest improvement in the last (few months) has been my putting,” Knous said. “In my mind, as long as I keep that going … everything will go pretty well.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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