Golf: Skiers clinch third straight regional title | AspenTimes.com

Golf: Skiers clinch third straight regional title

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jeff Caspersen/Post IndependentAspen's Jesse Beetham tracks one of his tee shots during Tuesday's 3A Western Regional at Rifle Creek Golf Course.

Rifle – Aspen’s Jesse Beetham was concerned his recent bout with bronchitis would preclude him from making it to the first tee in Tuesday’s 3A Western Regional.

“Last night was really rough. I was falling asleep at the regional dinner,” he said. “I knew it was all going to come down to this morning and how I felt when I got to the golf course.”

Thanks to some medicine, the junior felt good enough to give it a go at Rifle Creek Golf Course. The Skiers sure are glad he did.

Beetham carded a 1-under 71 to earn medalist honors and help Aspen overcome some uncharacteristically mediocre scores to secure its third consecutive regional crown. Clayton Crawford finished with 75, Ryan Smith 81 and Coulter Young 83 for the Skiers, whose team total of 227 points was 12 better than Rifle on a day when inflated numbers littered the scoreboard.

“They set the pins in a lot of difficult places. There were not a lot of chances for easy approaches,” Aspen head coach Mary Woulfe said. “If you missed the green it made things difficult, and it was tricky putting once you were on the green.

“It wasn’t our best performance all the way around, but it was a tough day for everybody out there. … We’re excited to be where we are.”

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Next up for the Skiers is a trip to the state tournament, Oct. 3 and 4 at Gunnison’s Dos Rios Golf Club. Joining them will be Basalt’s Tristan Rohrbaugh (78) and Dylan Rakowski (86), who nabbed two of nine individual qualifying spots and propelled the Longhorns to a third-place finish with 254.

“There was a a ton of pressure on us in general today,” Beetham said. “We still felt pretty confident even though I was sick.

“I wasn’t in that much pain, but when I was done with a big hike I’d have to stop and take a deep breath. … It was definitely in the back of my mind.”

He still managed to manufacture a steady round that included four birdies and three bogeys. A birdie at No. 17 pushed him into red figures at 1-under, and he finished off the win with a par at the last.

“You never can take it for granted making it to states – everything falls on regionals,” Woulfe said. “As much as we were the favorite, it didn’t feel that way. You have to go out and post the numbers. … We’re lucky a kid that sick played pretty well. Rifle’s No. 3 beat our No. 3, and their No. 4 beat our No. 4.”

Crawford, admittedly a little nervous at the first tee, opened with a bogey and made the turn at 4-over. He slipped even more after a bogey at the 11th, but last year’s regional champion rebounded nicely.

Crawford split the fairway on the par-5 13th and reached the green with a well-struck 5-iron; the ball came to rest 5 feet from the cup, and he converted the eagle. He followed that with another accurate approach and a 3-foot birdie putt at the 14th.

He drained a 10-plus footer for birdie at the par-3 15th to improve to 1-over.

“I had been trying all day, but nothing really formed. There were a lot of missed opportunities,” Crawford said. “Then I put a few shots together and got it going. … I’m thinking positively. I hit some good shots out there. I’m glad we were able to pull it out and get the job done.”

Despite a double bogey at 17 – he pushed his drive into a hazard, punched out, then flew the green and landed in a bunker – Crawford finished with the day’s second-best score.

As a result, for a second straight year, the Skiers were tops among both 3A and 4A schools.

Now, they’ll set their sights on Gunnison and ending Kent Denver’s five-year reign as the 3A state champions – after taking some time to get healthy.

In last year’s state tournament, at Eaton Country Club, Beetham tied for second individually after rounds of 74 and 68, but no other Aspen player cracked the top 25. Crawford (78, 79), Smith (78, 83) and Young (80, 82) wound up 27th, 35th and 39th for the Skiers, who finished fourth.

“We’re very excited. This is our shot if we’re ever going to do it,” Beetham said. “This is the best team we’ve had in a while. We’re hoping for the best. We’re hoping to win.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com