Aspen, Basalt qualify golfers to state tournament; Montezuma-Cortez wins
ASPEN REGIONAL TEAM SCORES
1. Montezuma-Cortez, +23 (236)
2. Aspen, +25 (238)
3. Basalt, +44 (257)
4. Delta, +46 (259)
5. Gunnison, +60 (273)
ASPEN REGIONAL INDIVIDUAL SCORES
1. Blake Keetch, M-C +2 (73)
2. Thayer Plewe, M-C +3 (74)
3. Atley Harris, Delta +4 (75)
T4. Jack Pevny, AHS +5 (76)
T4. Nic Pevny, AHS +5 (76)
6. Connor Downey, VC +6 (77)
7. Blake Exelbert, BHS +13 (84)
T8. Tyler Sims, BHS +15 (86)
T8. John Hall, AHS +15 (86)
10. Braden Exelbert, BHS +16 (87)
A decade’s worth of pressure was on the shoulders of the Aspen High School boys golf team on Wednesday, and for the most part the players were able to handle the burden. Hosting their Class 3A regional for the first time in 11 years, the Skiers finished second at Aspen Golf Club and will send four to the state tournament.
The runner-up finish did end a streak of 10 straight regional championships won by Aspen.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge this year. We had six guys that could shoot in the 70s on any given day and the question was, which two can do it on this day?” longtime AHS coach Mary Woulfe said. “I’m really proud of how they played though. It was hard. There was a lot of pressure. They felt a lot of pressure all year. That’s kind of a given coming off a state championship year. The young guys coming up are going to feel that.”
Coincidentally — or maybe not so much — the last time Aspen did not win its regional championship was in 2008, the last time it hosted. AHS finished third that year behind Gunnison and Roaring Fork, which is now the Basalt team. Ridgway’s Nick Purvis was the individual regional champion in 2008.
Wednesday, it was Montezuma-Cortez senior Blake Keetch who took low medalist honors, shooting 2-over-par 73 for the win. In second was his teammate, standout freshman Thayer Plewe, who shot 74 after just missing a putt on the 18th green that would have tied him atop the leaderboard. With junior Justin Brunner coming in tied for 11th after shooting 89, the Panthers won the team title with a collective 23-over 236 to beat Aspen by two strokes.
“Great showing for those guys today. Got off to a rough start, but they sure came in strong,” said Montezuma-Cortez coach Micah Rudosky. “With Thayer getting in this year we knew we would be pretty strong. We still need to work on that third scorer, but if we can get that down a little bit we can have a good showing at state.”
Plewe looked like the player to beat much of the day, but bogeys on two of his final three holes proved costly. Keetch, however, finished on fire, making five birdies on the back nine to close with a 33 after shooting 40 on the front nine.
Delta senior Atley Harris finished third with 75, while the Aspen duo of senior Jack Pevny and sophomore Nic Pevny tied for fourth after shooting 5-over 76. Junior John Hall was Aspen’s third scoring player, tying for eighth after shooting 86. AHS sophomore Lucas Lee shot 104 and finished in 36th.
“They fought valiantly, but there was just a tremendous amount of internal pressure they were both feeling to not let their teammates down that didn’t make it,” Woulfe said of Hall and Lee, who narrowly edged out a handful of other Skiers to make the four-man regional team. “The young man from Cortez, Thayer Plewe who came in second — quite the player. Those two boys (Plewe and Keetch) played superb rounds of golf but they were also really well coached.”
Both Pevny brothers were in the mix much of the afternoon. Jack, the only returning member of Aspen’s 3A state championship team a year ago, had an opening after a birdie on the 15th hole to make a move, but bogeyed two of his final three holes. Nic dug himself into an early hole after four straight bogeys on the front nine, but did enough to hang around until the finish. Hall shot 38 and was holding his own on the front nine, but a 48 on the back nine dropped him out of contention.
“Sometimes you make it and sometimes you push a little hard. I don’t think he pushed too hard, I just think it was rub of the green,” Woulfe said of Jack Pevny. “It was a big thing for him to try and win the individual title.”
By finishing as the top two teams, Montezuma-Cortez and Aspen both qualified for the state tournament as a team. Lee was thought to have been outside the qualifying mark after the tournament, but Woulfe said Thursday he was right on the line and will in fact get to compete at state alongside his teammates.
BASALT QUALIFIES individually
Any players not on those first two teams had to qualify individually by finishing in the top 13, not including the Aspen and Montezuma-Cortez golfers. This is where Basalt stepped up, as the Longhorns shot a collective 44-over 257 to finish in third as a team, well back of Aspen.
BHS senior Blake Exelbert finished seventh overall (including the AHS/M-C golfers) with an 84, junior Tyler Sims tied for eighth with 86 and sophomore Braden Exelbert finished 10th with 87 to all qualify for the state tournament. Sophomore Kyle Murray tied for 18th with 94 and lost in the second hole of a playoff and did not qualify but would be an alternate at state. On Thursday, it was said he’d likely get to play at state as well.
“Nothing to be disappointed about,” Basalt coach Joseph Fries said. “It was a grind and we were worried for a while. Nobody played up to their potential, but they played well enough to achieve our goal, which was to get there, with three of us at least. Now we can go on and play as a team and get some experience for our younger guys.”
Sims played as the team’s No. 1 golfer, competing in the final threesome alongside Jack Pevny and Plewe. Fries admitted it wasn’t Sims’ best round, shooting 41 on the front and 45 on the back, but overall has been pleased with how he has developed this fall.
“Today he struggled, but we’ve been working on it,” Fries said. “He’s doing the right things and making progress. I just hope we can erase what happened today from his brain.”
The Class 3A state golf tournament will be held Oct. 7-8 at Eisenhower Golf Course at the U.S. Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs. It will be Basalt’s first time competing at Eisenhower, but Aspen’s second. The Skiers competed at the Air Academy Kadet Invitational there on Sept. 9, which Jack Pevny won by two strokes. Nic Pevny tied for third that day.
“We are heading down to state and we are pretty excited about it,” Woulfe said. “We posted some good scores there in the regular season event, and we hope to do the same in the state tournament.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to show that Aspen’s Lucas Lee and Basalt’s Kyle Murray will get to compete in the state tournament.
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Aspen again is led by senior Christian Kelly at No. 1 singles and Alex Mosher at No. 2 singles. The pair held down those same spots last season, when the Skiers finished sixth overall.