Basalt High boys golf opens prep season with tournament at Devil’s Thumb
The top two spots are pretty well locked in for the Basalt High School boys golf team this fall, with a solid third close to returning from injury. Should a couple more of the younger players develop, BHS coach Joseph Fries believes this could be a good couple of months for the Longhorns.
“If we can develop a couple of those sophomores I think we’ll be pretty good. I really do,” said Fries, who is in his second season as Basalt’s coach. “We’ll have three bona fide players and hopefully two guys can claim those four and five spots and we’ll be able to make it back to that state tournament.”
Basalt boys golf became the first of the area prep teams to get its fall season underway on Thursday with a tournament at Devil’s Thumb Golf Course near Delta. Official golf practice and tryouts got underway Monday, with Thursday having been the first day for tournaments to be held across the state.
Senior Blake Exelbert shot 6-over-par 78 to lead the Longhorns by tying for ninth place. Junior Tyler Sims finished a shot back in a tie for 11th, while sophomore Adam Gair rounded out the scoring players by shooting 88 to tie for 25th.
Jordan Jennings of Montrose won the tournament by shooting 7-under 65, while his teammate, Micah Stangebye, was second with 67. Montrose won the team title, as well, with Basalt finishing in fourth.
Montrose won the Class 4A state championship last fall (Basalt plays in 3A), while Stangebye is the defending 4A individual state champion.
Fries said Sims, who is the only main varsity player who actually attends BHS (the rest go to Glenwood Springs High School), and Exelbert are clearly the team’s top two players entering the season.
“Tyler embraces the one spot a little more than Blake does. I might just leave it up to them, but they are either-or,” Fries said. “Blake is so steady. You can almost guarantee that he’ll have something — low 80s at worst. And Tyler is the same way. They are just really consistent.”
Sims and Exelbert are the only returners of Basalt’s four-man state team that finished sixth as a group last October at Boulder Country Club. Gone are graduates Holden Kleager, who led BHS by finishing tied for 16th at state, and Tyler Dollahan. Sims and Exelbert each shot 164 combined over two rounds at state last fall to finish tied for 33rd.
Throw in junior Kyle Murray, who is returning from injury and is expected to be the No. 3 varsity player this fall, and the potential of underclassmen like Gair, sophomore Braden Exelbert and even freshman Cooper Robinson, and Fries sees the making of another strong team.
“I was really impressed with Adam’s 88, having it be his first real tournament,” Fries said. “Especially as a sophomore, he’s come so far since last year. I’m really optimistic about him. And Kyle Murray, who played a lot of varsity for us last year, he’s a little banged up to start the year. So we’ll have him coming in in a few weeks.”
Fries decided to focus most of the tournaments on the back half of the schedule this season, so the Longhorns won’t compete again until Aug. 21, a couple of days after classes get underway. This will give the team plenty of time to practice at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale, which has replaced Ironbridge Golf Club as its home course this fall.
“RVR has kind of opened their arms to us, which has really helped us out early in the year,” Fries said. “We’ve gotten a lot of practice in and they’ve just been really awesome for us.”
The Aspen High School boys golf team opens its season Friday with a tournament at Battlement Mesa near Parachute. The Skiers are coming off their first state championship, having won the 3A team title in Boulder last fall. AHS did graduate most of that team, however, with only senior Jack Pevny back from the group that played in the state tournament.
The rest of the fall sports teams officially begin practice Monday.
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