Aspen golfers top field in New Castle |

Aspen golfers top field in New Castle

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

NEW CASTLE, Colo. – New faces, same result.

The Aspen golf team gave all but one of its varsity A members the day off Tuesday, opting instead to send some of its B teamers to the Titan Invitational at New Castle’s Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club. The contingent took full advantage of its opportunity.

Junior standout Clayton Crawford earned medalist honors with a 3-over-par 75 and Will Hazen and Patrick Martin carded 86 and 82, respectively, for the Skiers, who secured the team title with 243 points – two strokes fewer than 4A Rifle. (Cameron Ortega wound up firing a 79, but his score did not count because he was seeded eighth Tuesday.)

The victory, albeit against a smaller and weaker field, comes on the heels of the Skiers’ strong effort Monday at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction. Aspen, playing with its full roster for the first time this season, finished first among 3As and tied for second overall, three behind Steamboat Springs.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” head coach Mary Woulfe said of Tuesday’s win. “We’re kind of looking for who those third and fourth guys are going to be, and they haven’t really emerged yet. It’s nice to know we’re that deep that we have guys all the way back to No. 10 who can shoot in the 70s.”

A day after struggling with the wind en route to a 78 in his season debut, Crawford was battling his swing Tuesday. He shanked his tee shot at No. 1 and the ball bounded into a canyon, leading to a double-bogey seven.

After burying a six-footer for birdie at No. 2 and three consecutive pars, Crawford’s drive at the sixth landed in a hazard, yielding another double.

“I was starting to make progress and took another hit,” Crawford lamented. “It obviously was not great, but I tried to stay in it. I knew I was swinging the club fine. I knew I could come back from it.”

He made the turn at 3-over, then improved his position with a birdie at the par-5 11th. He was off again at No. 12, however; he drove it into some bushes, had to punch out short of the green, then two-putted for bogey.

“That one could’ve been much worse,” Crawford admitted. “I did well managing that hole.”

After a birdie at No. 14, Crawford could not get up and down out of a bunker at the par-3 15th and three-putted the 16th green, dropping two strokes.

He rebounded with an accurate wedge shot and a 10-foot birdie on 17, then made a good par save at the last – one that secured himself a spot in a playoff.

“I hit a good drive up the middle, then hit my second in a hazard. I was going for the green in two but just didn’t quite make it,” Crawford said. “I ended up having to drop in a not-ideal spot, but I got up and down. … I didn’t strike the ball as well as Monday, but I had a couple good chances and scrambled to save some holes.”

There was little drama in the playoff. Crawford split the fairway at No. 10 with a

4-wood, then hit his approach to two feet. Vail Mountain School freshman Oliver Pesso hit his second to about 20 feet, then narrowly missed his birdie putt.

“I felt like I was in the PGA with everybody watching and that intense putt,” Pesso said. “I wish I made it. When I putted, I thought I made it.”

“That certainly would’ve put the pressure on, but I tapped in for birdie to seal it,” Crawford said. “It’s good to know that even though I don’t hit it well, I can throw up a decent score.

“This is a good step for us. This should give us confidence. We have a lot of guys who can step up.”

The Skiers are expected to take 11 players – including their full A squad – to Wednesday’s tournament at Eagle Vail Golf Club in Avon.

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