Basalt golfer soars with 8 birdies and an eagle

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Knous made the statement in jest. It wound up being prophetic.

After Saturday’s third round at the Colorado Golf Association (CGA) Stroke Play Championship at Boulder Country Club, the Basalt High alum trailed leader Wyndham Clark by 10 strokes. Still, he was upbeat as he conversed with his father and caddy, Steve.

“I think I’ll just throw a 61 up there and see what happens,” Steve Knous remembers his son saying.

Improbably, the School of Mines junior went even lower in Sunday’s final round. He chipped in for eagle at the par-5 second hole and recorded eight birdies and nine pars en route to a 10-under par 60. The score, believed to be the lowest ever in competitive CGA play, bested the previous course record of 62 – one shared by three-time U.S. Open winner Hale Irwin.

The effort also helped Knous secure a spot in a playoff. He wound up finishing second to Clark, just 16, who drained a 30-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole.

The end result did little to overshadow a special afternoon, however.

“I was hanging around the clubhouse [after the round] and a bunch of members were coming up and shaking my hand – even the club champion and head pro. It was pretty special,” Knous said Monday. “I keep my phone off during the round, and when I turned it on I had like seven text messages and three voicemails. … I called my mom and she was freaking out. She couldn’t believe it.”

“Man, it was thrilling beyond belief to be a part of that thing,” Steve Knous added. “This is as good as it gets.

“I thought he was playing well enough to shoot 65, but 60? That’s got to be the baseball equivalent of a perfect game.”

Contending for a win seemed far-fetched after the first three rounds. While he was striking the ball well – he hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation Friday, his father said – Jim Knous made few putts.

He was 3-over after 54 holes.

“The kid was pin-jamming like crazy. Everything was within 10 to 15 feet,” Steve Knous said. “We just weren’t making any putts, just burning the edge. I was like, ‘What’s up with this?'”

The trend continued on the opening hole Sunday, when father and son watched a 12-foot birdie attempt lip out.

Things took a drastic turn minutes later, however, at the par-5 second. Jim Knous’ third shot from 15 yards disappeared into the cup.

Then, the putts started falling.

And falling.

“It’s like the hole opened up into a basketball hoop,” said Knous, who has just 22 putts in the round. “All I had to do was hit the putt. It seemed like everything was going in.”

Even after narrowly missing a birdie attempt at the ninth, Knous made the turn at 5-under.

The hot streak continued on the back nine.

“This wasn’t a pitch-and-putt. … It’s a very tough track with a lot of trees, a lot of water,” Steve Knous said. “This kind of thing just doesn’t happen very often.”

Jim Knous could have gone even lower. In addition to the short miss on nine, he split the fairway with his drive on the par-5 12th, but hit his 7-iron into a green-side bunker; his next shot came to rest 4 feet from the hole, but he and his father misread the break, settling for par.

No matter. Knous, who admitted he was battling nerves, finished with a flourish. He capped off his career round with a birdie on 18, converting a tricky downhill 20-footer to post 60.

The effort was six strokes better than his previous best, which he accomplished as a junior in high school at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction, then matched as a freshman in college.

“He was 9-under after 17, and I said ’61 sounds good, but 60 would be even better,'” Steve Knous said.

“I just shook my head and said, ‘I can’t believe what I just saw.'”

Clark bogeyed the 72nd hole, dropping into a tie for first at 7-under. Jim Knous had a chance to close out the match on the opening playoff hole, but hit his birdie attempt too firmly.

On the next, he pulled his drive into some trees; he was forced to chip the ball back onto the fairway.

The disappointment of watching Clark seal victory with a long birdie putt dissipated quickly, Knous said.

“Whenever you shoot 60, you can’t be too upset,” he quipped. “It was quite a day.”

“It’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime event,” his father added.

“I told people it’s just one of the greatest days I’ve had in years, just the feeling of euphoria and excitement. You just knew you were witnessing something pretty special.”