Young Aspen team heavy on golf experience | AspenTimes.com

Young Aspen team heavy on golf experience

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Aspen's Jesse Beetham fires a shot toward the No. 18 green at the Haymaker Golf course Wednesday afternoon during the Steamboat Sailors Invitational.

ASPEN – Mary Woulfe refers to the Aspen golf team as a “coach’s dream.” Teeing it up against the young but experienced Skiers this fall likely will be a nightmare for the opposition. Aspen boasts a roster overflowing with young talent, including a group that helped the Skiers capture last year’s 3A regional title in Steamboat Springs and earn a state berth.Adding to the excitement is the addition of touted player Clayton Crawford, who won two junior tournaments this summer. The 14-year-old freshman-to-be fired a 71 and a 76 to set the standard during team qualifying Monday and Tuesday at the Aspen Golf Course. Sophomore Jesse Beetham (81-77), a two-time medalist last fall, wound up second.While Woulfe remains noncommittal, Crawford could be Aspen’s No. 1 when the season opens Thursday at Battlement Mesa Golf Club in Parachute.”They’re going to be neck and neck. They’re going to be pushing each other,” Woulfe said of Crawford and Beetham. “But it’s a team event. The best thing we have is depth. … I’ve never had anything like this.”Enough depth to have two varsity traveling squads. Among those expected to score points for the Skiers are Joseph Kistner, August So, Tommy Doyle and Ryan Smith. Smith, a junior who was third in the team qualifier, made his first state appearance last fall. He also posted a score in the 60s this summer at a tournament on the East Coast, Woulfe said.The breadth of talent should help Aspen overcome the loss of junior Coulter Young during the season’s first few weeks. Young, the team captain, bruised his ribs in a recent lawn mower accident at his home in Woody Creek.Young’s 5-over par 78 propelled the Skiers to the regional crown last fall. He and Beetham were all-conference first-team selections.”He hit some wet grass, and the mower went head-first down toward the river,” Woulfe said. “He’s lucky to be walking around and mobile. … If you’ve ever had bruised ribs, it takes quite a while for most of us to heal, but 17-year-olds heal a little quicker. We’re not putting any time limit on it.”Young will still travel with the Skiers, who play five tournaments in the next week. He should be back to full strength well before Aspen’s home tournament Sept. 14.The Skiers will look to defend their regional crown Sept. 21 at the Links at Cobble Creek in Montrose.”We’re going to let it play out … but expectations are obviously extremely high when you look at the quality of players on this team,” Woulfe said. “It’s not only coming from me, but the players themselves and the people in the community. … Without setting firm goals, we want to make it to regionals as the No. 1 team and compete at state as individuals and a team. That’s what we’re shooting for.”It’ll be fun to watch. I’m excited.”

Al Rakowski is inheriting a largely unproven Longhorns squad this fall. Still, the first-year head coach can see potential in his crop of primarily underclassmen.Sure, Basalt lost three productive players to graduation, among them the team’s lone 2010 state representative (Marty Knous) and a 2008 all-conference honorable mention selection (Patrick Hall). Sure, the Longhorns have struggled with consistency in the two seasons following their back-to-back regional titles in 2006 and 2007.But don’t count out these Longhorns just yet.”What we can count on is the kids hanging tough and hanging together,” said Rakowski, whose team opens the season Thursday in Parachute. “We’re hoping to go places.”Leading the way is Rakowski’s son, Dylan. The sophomore showed flashes of strong play in 2009, when he missed out on a state berth by one stroke after a carding a 92 at regionals.He has continued to progress this summer and has already posted four rounds in the 70s. Two of those came in a recent tournament in Grand Junction, where Dylan finished second to Aspen’s Crawford.”[Dylan] says he’s out to get [Crawford],” coach Rakowski joked. “I look back [at 2009’s regionals] and see the hole, I see the shot [that cost Dylan a trip to state]. I know he can too. He’s pretty much right there.”Basalt’s hopes of competing will also depend on the contributions of junior Austin Vannice and freshman Tristan Rohrbaugh, the son of Ironbridge Golf pro Doug Rohrbaugh. Tristan’s brother Brandon, a junior, is also coming out for golf for the first time.jmaletz@aspentimes.com