First regional title for Longhorns boys | AspenTimes.com

First regional title for Longhorns boys

Jon Maletz

Mark Fox/The Aspen Times

The favored Longhorns boys golf team was primed for the competition it would face in Wednesday’s 4A regional tournament at Devil’s Thumb Golf Club in Delta. The weather, however, was a complete surprise. Basalt braved rain, sleet, unrelenting wind and cold for close to six hours to capture the school’s first regional title. The Longhorns, who finished second by a mere stroke last year, bested 2005 regional champ Steamboat Springs, 243-244.Eagle Valley (251) took third, and Aspen (279) was 12th.”The weather was horrible,” said Longhorns’ No. 1 Jim Knous, who tied for third. “It was miserable out there for the final six holes. But now, we’re having some fun.”Knous was well on his way to shooting the 76 he figured he needed to win the individual title after making the turn at even par. The wind was persistent, he said, but hardly affected ball flight or hindered scoring chances.Then, the weather hit. A combination of rain and sleet inundated both the players and the course. The wind picked up nearly 20 mph, and some gusts reached 50 mph. During one stretch the rain was so strong that both Knous and Basalt head coach Pat Riley expected play to be suspended. The stoppage never came.

Riley, who did not bring his rain gear, retreated inside to dry off. Once he headed back onto the course, he ditched the cart and walked in an attempt to stay warm.There was little he could do.”They should’ve stopped it for an hour,” Riley said. The guys’ hands were numb out there.”Knous had his best three-hole stretch – birdie, par, par on holes 13-15 – during the round’s worst weather. But the rest of the back nine was a struggle. Knous hit his second shot into a strong headwind into the water on the par-4 10th and walked away with double bogey. A bogey at the 11th pushed his score to 3-over.He was 2-over heading to the 16th, a hole that derailed his otherwise promising round of 74 during Basalt’s win at Devil’s Thumb on Aug. 30. Knous’ drive sailed right and landed in a pile a mud. He hit a solid second shot, one he thought would land on the green. To his dismay, the ball plugged into the top bank of the greenside bunker.”I could only see half the ball, but I figured I’d try and hit it out,” said Knous, who, along with teammate Connor Rakowski, was named to the Western Slope’s first team Tuesday. “I hit down on it from an awkward stance and hit the ball farther into the sand. I couldn’t see it after that.”

He ruled the ball unplayable and took a drop in the trap. The ball settled into the drenched sand, and Knous failed to get up and down. Knous, who doubled the hole in August, marked a 3-over 7 on the card. He bogeyed 18 and finished with 78. Steamboat’s Paul Berry (76) was top medalist. Delta’s Eric Farmer (77) took second, and Sam McKinley of Grand Valley tied Knous. “It was three sticks of wind out there,” Aspen coach Henry Adams said. “It’s hard when you normally hit 7-iron to pull out a 4-iron to make the shot.”Complicating problems for the Longhorns were their late tee times. The first Basalt player didn’t begin his round until 10:20 a.m., which allowed more time for inclement weather to approach. Despite harsh conditions, the team did, however, stick to its mantra.”We had a motto today that was ‘Every shot counts,'” Riley said. “Nobody gives up. Forget about bad holes and move on to the next one. Everybody stuck with their game and did the best they could considering the conditions. It paid off for us.”Rakowski shot 82, and seniors Bryan Mason and Nick Johnson had 83 and 85, respectively. The win is Basalt’s ninth in 12 tournament appearances this fall.

“I felt a little more pressure than usual on the tee, and other teams were gunning for us,” Knous said. “After the fifth-place at Yampa Valley [in early September] we knew we were beatable. This could’ve been our last tournament, but we didn’t want to go out like that.”While Basalt was able to contend with the elements, Aspen struggled, Adams said. None of the Skiers cracked 90, and Aspen finished 12th out of 19 teams. Aspen Senior Matt Butler, a second-team all-conference selection, shot 94. The state individual qualifying mark was 82.”We just couldn’t handle the cold, the wet, the sleet,” Adams said. “Better teams usually prevail in bad weather, and that was the case today.”I’d like to wish Pat all the success in the world when they go to state. I hope he can take it all the way. He sure is qualified and has done a tremendous job with his team.”The 4A state tournament gets under way Oct. 2, at the Haymaker Golf Course in Steamboat Springs. Weather could once again be a factor. Nearly 4 inches of snow fell at the course last week.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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