Freshman Garrett Exelbert leads Basalt High boys golf to win at home tournament

After a “terrible” practice round Monday, Basalt High School boys golf coach Joe Fries loved the maturity shown by freshman Garrett Exelbert when it really mattered a day later. Playing Tuesday at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale, Exelbert led the Longhorns to a team victory by winning the individual title in only his third varsity tournament.

“I’m not sure how low he can go. He’s a freshman. He looks like a freshman. He’s not nearly as long as the other guys he plays with,” Fries said. “He’s really mentally steady, which obviously leads to steady play. He just gets it. He understands the game. He knows where to hit it. He knows where not to hit it, and he actually thinks about that before he hits it. For a freshman, that’s pretty remarkable.”

Exelbert shot 6-over 78 to finish in a tie for first with Vail Christian junior Connor Downey. Exelbert was awarded the win via a scorecard tiebreaker based off the back nine scores, Exelbert shooting 37 and Downey 38.

Battle Mountain freshman Jack Fox was third, shooting 79, and tying for fourth with 80 were Palisade’s Alex Morrall and Vail Mountain’s Stewie Bruce.

Basalt junior Kyle Murray was sixth with 81, BHS senior Tyler Sims tied for eighth with 84 and junior Braden Exelbert tied for 10th with 85. Sophomore Hunter Oger rounded out the team scoring for BHS, shooting 91 to tie for 26th.

The Longhorns won the team title with a collective 328, finishing seven strokes ahead of Vail Mountain’s 335. Battle Mountain was third with 338 and Aspen was fourth with 351. Nine teams competed.

The Skiers were led by senior John Hall, who tied for 10th with 85. Senior Jake Doyle shot 86 to tie for 14th, sophomore Sky Sosna shot 89 to tie for 22nd, senior Cole Kennedy shot 91 to tie for 26th, and freshman Miles Butera shot 95 to tie for 32nd. Again sitting out was junior Nic Pevny, the team’s best golfer, who is expected back on the tee box later this week.

“The golf course was probably the winner today. We don’t have many events where 78 wins,” Fries said. “It was beautiful when we first teed off. We started at 8:30, so it was perfect. But there wasn’t a breath of wind out there. There was no breeze. At about 10, 10:30 you could feel the temperature going up like two degrees a minute. I think by the time the boys got off the golf course, they were pretty happy to be off the golf course.”

Despite Tuesday being only his third varsity tournament, Garrett Exelbert led BHS in scoring for the second time; he shot 80 at Saddle Rock last week. He’s part of the same Exelbert family with Braden that includes 2020 graduate Blake Exelbert, all current or former Glenwood Springs High School students who play or played for the BHS golf team.

And the youngest Exelbert seems to have picked up the best traits from both of his older brothers.

“His older brother (Blake) was this care-free player. And his other older brother, Braden, who is on the team, is a little bit harder on himself,” Fries said. “But Braden is really bright. So Garrett kind of has the mix of care-free attitude and the mix of keeping himself to a (high) standard.”

All in all, Tuesday’s results in their home tournament were promising for the Longhorns, who will host the regional tournament at RVR late next month. The team’s depth and maturity lead Fries to believe they’ll be competitive when the stakes grow in September.

“To post 85 and 84 when you are clearly not at your best, if that’s rock bottom for those two players, we are in a pretty good place,” Fries said of Sims and Braden Exelbert. “To have four scores of 85 or better, it’s really important. It really is. I think the experience is starting to pay off after three years for a few of these kids.”

Aspen is tentatively scheduled to play Thursday in Grand Junction, while both teams currently have plans to play Monday at Eagle Valley.


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