Basalt golfer sharp in return to course |

Basalt golfer sharp in return to course

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

FRUITA, Colo. Jim Knous proved he’s human. Connor Rakowski proved he’s back.On a day when Basalt’s No. 1 golfer struggled uncharacteristically, Rakowski shook off a slow start and a lingering injury to post the tournament’s second-best score Monday at Adobe Creek National Golf Course. Rakowski, sidelined for three tournaments after partially tearing a ligament in his left thumb Aug. 27, posted a 2-over-par round of 74 to finish two shots behind winner Brendan Bingaman from Fruita Monument. Knous, a nine-time winner in 11 tournaments in this his senior season, finished with 78 – his highest round of the season. Marty Knous shot 81, Patrick Hall had 82, and John Komula 88 for the Longhorns, who finished 11 behind Fruita (222). Cortez and Grand Junction (235) tied for third.”It was my first round back, and I’m satisfied,” Rakowski said. “It felt great to get back out there. Missing two weeks and not doing something you love was hard.”Rakowski tried to play in a plastic cast Wednesday at Yampa Valley Golf Course in Craig but withdrew after only three holes. “Every time I swung, it stabbed into the side of my hand,” he said. “But I was too afraid to take it off.”The pain had subsided substantially by Monday, but Rakowski admitted that, because of the layoff, his expectations were modest. So, too, was his play on the opening two holes. He hit a strong first tee shot, but his approach from 115 yards sailed left of the green. He mis-hit his chip and ended up with a bogey.He hit his hybrid off the tee at his second hole, pulled it out of bounds, and wound up recording a double bogey. He missed a six-footer for birdie on the ensuing hole.”I figured OK, my thumb is sore and I haven’t played much, so that’s how it’s going to go today,” Rakowski said. “I didn’t start off too well.”He rebounded. After missing a 10-footer for birdie at his fourth hole, he got up-and-down for a 4 at the ensuing par-5. After a par and a three-putt for bogey, he sank a 15-footer for birdie from off the green on his ninth hole. He opened his back nine with three consecutive pars, then birdied a par-5. He recorded another birdie at his 16th hole, a driveable 308-yard par-4, after hitting a three wood into the front bunker then getting up-and-down.While he admitted he’s not quite 100 percent – and the injury weighed on him at certain points during the round – Rakowski was encouraged after his return.”It was still in my memory. There were a couple of times where I ended in the rough and instead of picking a club and swinging hard, I decided to club up and take it easy,” he said. “It was a little sore for the two or three holes, but I took a few Motrins, and it got a little better. I should be back to normal next week, or at least close to it.”The Longhorns hope Knous reverts to form, too, in time for regionals, Sept. 19-20 at Cortez’s Conquistador Golf Course. “We found out he’s human today,” Basalt coach Pat Riley said. “He’s probably had a lot of pressure – he figures he has to be the No. 1 guy all the time. A result like this will really have him ready for the regional.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is