Basalt golfer comes up short in Greeley
Seven feet: For Basalt golfer Connor Rakowski, that was the difference between finishing seventh and booking his trip to nationals. The senior sat in a four-way tie for second in the Big “I” Junior Classic state qualifier – the nation’s largest stroke play tournament – after firing an opening-round 5-under-par 67 Thursday at Greeley’s Boomerang Links.His fortunes changed swiftly after an “errant” drive at No. 3 in Thursday’s final round at Highland Hills Golf Course. Rakowski walked away with a triple bogey 7, was 4-over through three holes and, despite playing the final 15 holes in 2-over, wound up seventh – the top four finishers advance to the national tournament in Boise, Idaho.
“This course is tree-lined, and it’s like nothing I’ve ever played,” Rakowski said. “If you a pull a drive there, you better pull it really bad so you end up in a different fairway.”Rakowski’s drive on the third came to rest under a pine tree just seven yards wide of the fairway. With no chance to advance the ball, he chipped out to the fairway on the 400-yard hole. Rakowski, no doubt seething as the prospect of posting a big number became a real possibility, pulled his third shot left of the green. He chipped to the far right side of the putting surface, then two-putted.”Getting a triple definitely demoralizes what you’re feeling,” Rakowski said. “I missed fourth by one stroke, and if you take out the triple, I could’ve been in third place. It wasn’t as bad as it looks.
“Golf is so crazy like that. It’s so amazing how my score can be 10 strokes different between today and yesterday.”He knows the frustration well. Little more than a week before, Rakowski was again in prime contention after opening with 67 at a U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier at Mira Vista Golf Course in Aurora. He closed with a final-round 78 to finish 13th and missed being an alternate by two shots.”I was playing well and I had a legitimate chance at making it,” Rakowski remembered. “It just stinks that I can’t quite figure out [how to finish strong]. Once I do, I’ll be a deadly player.”The young golfer can take solace in the fact that he finished strong Friday. He shrugged off the slow start and finished 2-over on the final 15 holes. It was no small feat considering the course’s difficulty, the unusually high humidity and the slow play – it took most groups six hours to complete their rounds.
Rakowski, who on Friday competed for a fifth consecutive day, said his game is the best it’s ever been. He took second place in the 54-hole Daily Sentinel Junior Golf Tournament earlier this week in Grand Junction.He was on point again Thursday. His 5-under round included five birdies and 13 pars, and Rakowski hit 16 greens in regulation. Rakowski, currently eighth in Colorado among rising high school seniors, is slated to compete in next week’s match play event at Denver’s Wellshire Golf Club. The high school season begins in August for him and the Longhorns, who have high expectations after winning nine of 11 tournaments in 2006. “I’m playing with the best in the state right now, and I feel like I’m keeping up with them,” Rakowski said. “I’ll get over [Friday’s round]. I have plenty of golf left in the year. One round won’t destroy my whole season.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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