Aspen High girls golf season tees off Monday in Grand Junction
It can be difficult to tell if Kat Kowar is headed to the slopes or the links by her wardrobe alone.
“It’s a lot like dressing to go skiing, except you are going to go golfing,” the Aspen High School senior said. “It’s still snowing, and it’s usually raining up until the last few tournaments.”
Kowar is in her second year on the AHS girls golf team, which, according to coach Don Buchholz, has “the worst season of any sport in Aspen.”
Look outside and winter is clearly still here, but according to the high school sports calendar, it’s springtime. The spring prep season began last week with practices, and Monday the AHS girls golf team will get its season underway with a tournament in Grand Junction.
“Very scared — I’m not good under pressure,” said freshman Julia Higdon, who is new to competitive golf, of Monday’s tournament. “When I first came here on Tuesday, I was terrified. I felt a little better because we had played a little bit at least, before. But now that we’ve been here a few days, I feel like everyone is in the same boat.”
The AHS girls are trying to replace a strong senior class, which included last year’s lone state qualifier, Dolores Sharaf. Sharaf, now a student at the University of Georgia, took 21st in the Class 4A state tournament last spring in Pueblo. She shaved 13 strokes off her second-round score compared to her first.
“I’ve got a great turnout this year. I’ve got 12 players, so it could be the largest team in the history of Aspen,” Buchholz said. “We play against Delta, Montrose and Grand Junction, those teams that unfortunately for us and fortunately for them are hitting balls into the air off a driving range.”
While Buchholz has the numbers this season, he does lack developed players. Unless they opt to travel, the AHS girls are unlikely to hit off of green grass outside of tournaments this season. This can make practices somewhat unorthodox compared to their opponents in the drier southwest part of the state.
The team operates mostly out of the Aspen Junior Golf building, located adjacent to the clubhouse at the Aspen Golf Club. With an indoor hitting net and putting green — not to mention a new simulator inside the main clubhouse — the Skiers can make golf practice legitimate, despite feet of snow just outside the door.
“The really nice thing about not being able to train outside right away, is when you are first getting into the season and starting to swing clubs again, you are not so focused on ball flight,” Kowar said. “It’s more about technique and body positioning and things like that, which are all really important to have a nice ball flight. So that I think is an advantage that is sometimes overlooked.”
Monday’s season-opening tournament, hosted by Palisade at Chipeta Golf Course, is the first of seven Buchholz hopes to get the girls to this spring. An important early-season tournament at Battlement Mesa in Parachute occurs around the same time as AHS’s spring break. Battlement Mesa will host Aspen’s Class 3A regional the first week of May. This is the first season there has been a 3A classification for girls golf.
The 3A state golf tournament is scheduled for May 22-23 at Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield.
“We did get the short end of the stick as far as seasons go. Regardless, though, it’s fun,” Kowar said. “We roll up to the first tournament and we haven’t hit on grass before. That’s always exciting, I guess.”
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Under bluebird skies with 160 acres under their boots, hundreds of skiers and snowboarders took to Aspen Mountain for opening day Wednesday.