Aspen golf team clinches fourth straight regional crown |

Aspen golf team clinches fourth straight regional crown

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

CORTEZ, Colo. – Jesse Beetham was cruising early in Tuesday’s 3A Western Slope regionals, at one point reaching 3-under par.

Then came a triple bogey, one that threatened to derail the Aspen High senior’s round – and his team’s title hopes.

“That could’ve destroyed him,” Skiers head coach Mary Woulfe said, “but he held it together. He fought his way back.”

On a day when every stroke mattered, Aspen sure is glad he did. Beetham wound up firing a 4-over-par 76, good for second place individually at Cortez’s Conquistador Golf Course. Clayton Crawford matched that effort, August So carded an 80, and the Skiers finished with 232 points – two fewer than Vail Christian, which was led by medalist Robby Bowle’s 75 – to clinch a fourth consecutive regional title.

Beetham overcame a bout of bronchitis to finish with a 1-under 71 at last year’s regionals at Rifle Creek Golf Course, helping Aspen top runner-up Rifle by 12.

Now, Aspen will be sending four – Beetham, Crawford, So and Joseph Kistner – to Oct. 1 and 2’s state championships at Denver’s Pinehurst Country Club.

“It was a bit of a scramble out there today,” Crawford admitted. “I made the turn at 3-over and grinded out a 1-over on the back nine. … It was a little too close.”

Downvalley rival Basalt will be sending two golfers for a second consecutive season. Connor Rakowski and Tristan Rohrbaugh secured their spots with rounds of 78 and 80, respectively, for the Longhorns, who finished third out of 10 with 244 points. The top team and the next 10 highest finishers qualify for state.

Gunnison (246) and Vail Mountain School (254) rounded out the top five.

“Going into the season, I had high expectations. I always do,” Basalt head coach Al Rakowski said. “We were hoping to go as a team, but I expected Aspen to be tough competition, and Vail Christian has a heck of a team. You know, I thought things would’ve gone a little easier. The course is fairly straightforward – everything is in front of you. I think it was anxiety, the pressure of knowing you have to shoot a pretty good round.

“To sum it up, we’ve got two guys going to state. That’s good.”

Dylan Rakowski, who fired a 67 Aug. 29 at Devil’s Thumb Golf Club, “couldn’t hit an iron to save my life” Tuesday. Accuracy off the tee and a stellar short game kept him in contention on a blustery, warm day.

“I definitely could’ve hit the ball better out there, but I got up and down as much as I could,” said Rakowski, who finished 10th at state last year. “I think my game is definitely at the level it needs to be. I had a bad day out there today, but I know I’ll be better at Pinehurst.”

Aspen will need to be better in two weeks, too, if it is to challenge six-time defending state champion Kent Denver. While they finished second at state in 2011, the Skiers wound up 24 strokes behind the Sun Devils.

“I’m glad we all get the chance to go to Denver,” Crawford said. “I haven’t thought about states specifically, but we’re going to go down there and do our best.”

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