Route 66: Player’s low round leads Longhorns | AspenTimes.com

Route 66: Player’s low round leads Longhorns

Jon Maletz

Basalt golf coach Pat Riley thought Jim Knous was joking.When Riley pulled his golf cart up to the 18th green following play in Monday’s tournament at Grand Junction’s Bookcliff Country Club, Knous handed over his scorecard.”I shot a 66,” he said. Riley didn’t believe what he had just heard – until he opened up the card. When he called home to deliver the good news, Riley was so ecstatic he could hardly talk, his wife, Barbara, said. “It’s like they always say: ‘The guy just couldn’t miss out there,'” Riley said.Knous’ 5-under par round was six shots better than his nearest competitor and helped propel the Longhorns to their second straight team title in as many tournaments. The team won last Thursday’s Grand Valley Invitational at Battlement Mesa. Basalt shot 224, nine points lower than second-place finisher Rifle. Steamboat Springs (234) took third, and Aspen (253) finished eighth. The low round may have been a surprise to everyone but Knous. The junior said he has watched his game progress all summer, culminating in his victory in Saturday’s course championship on his home turf at the Ironbridge Golf Club in Glenwood Springs. Knous shot a 4-under 68.He also took top honors during a tournament last year at River Valley Ranch, where he shot 72 despite 30 mph winds. Even he admitted, however, that Monday was special.”I played really well and had everything going my way,” Knous said. “I was making all the putts.”Knous opened his round with a par 4 at the first, then bogeyed the 342-yard par-4 second, a slight dogleg to the left. He rebounded with four birdies in the following eight holes, including a stretch of three in a row. After sinking his putt on the 213-yard par-3 eighth, Knous birdied back-to-back par 5s.Knous holed multiple putts in excess of 15 feet; he had just 26 putts the entire round. He closed with a two-under 34 on the back nine. In just his second time at Bookcliff – he shot 75 in the first round of the Daily Sentinel West Chapter Jr. Championship in July – Knous ran away from the field.”I was hitting my irons really well, and whenever I found the green, I putted well,” Knous said. “I didn’t do as well last time, but this time I knew what to do. I really drove the ball straight, which was important because this course has a lot of water, [out of bounds areas] and trees. “It all worked out today.”Junior Connor Rakowski posted a 74 and senior Nick Johnson shot an 84 for the Longhorns. Those scores, coupled with the one posted by Knous, helped Basalt shoot four shots better than last Thursday.”Nick had a so-so day, but you can afford a round like that when you have a 66,” Riley said. “It’s not like this was an accident, and I don’t want to take anything away from Jim. He’s a great golfer and really played up to his potential.”Four days after he cracked the top 10 with a 76, Aspen senior No. 1 Matt Butler struggled on his way to an 83. Skiers freshman Conor Hansen shot 86, junior Trent Manchester an 84 and sophomore Taylor Huske an 89 – all three shaved strokes off the rounds they posted Thursday. As a result, Aspen posted a team score of 253 for a second straight tournament.Butler struggled driving the ball and was errant with his short irons from 120-150 yards away, Skiers assistant coach Gary Snyder said. “I don’t think he had any real blowup holes, but it’s always going to be a hard day when you’re chipping and trying and get up and down just to make pars,” Snyder said. “I credit it to him having an off day. “Nobody on our team was satisfied with their scores today. I think having all these rounds in a row will really help us.”Both teams tee off today at Junction’s Tiara Rado Golf Course before heading to Montrose for tournaments at Black Canyon Golf Club and the Links at Cobble Creek on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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