‘Horns golfer wins in preseason tune-up
CRAIG Basalt’s Connor Rakowski managed to use one ball in Tuesday’s tournament in Craig, quite a feat considering that water hazards loom on more than half of Yampa Valley Golf Club’s holes. The senior’s consistent play in the Yampa River Junior Golf Classic – his final competitive tuneup before the start of the high school season Aug. 9 – yielded a victory. Rakowski recorded just one bogey and finished two shots clear of the field with a 2-under par 70.”With the season only two weeks away, I’m glad with the way I played,” Rakowski said Wednesday. “[Tuesday’s] round couldn’t have gone much better.”Rakowski was fortunate to start on No. 1 – a short par-5 that is reachable in two – and capitalized with a birdie. He then strung together seven consecutive pars.
An errant drive made things interesting at No. 9. Rakowski hit his tee shot straight instead of drawing it on the 387-yard par-4 dogleg to the left, and his ball settled in the rough. As he lined up his second shot from 135 yards out, Rakowski saw an opening through the trees. He pulled out a 52-degree wedge and hit his approach to 6 feet. He sank the putt to complete his front nine in 2-under. Rakowski carried that momentum to the short par-4 10th, where he hit a solid drive and landed his approach from 50 yards out 6 feet from the hole. He missed a golden opportunity to extend his lead, however, after second-guessing himself.”I ended up reading the putt to break left to right about 4 inches, but when I stood over it, it didn’t look like it went that much,” Rakowski remembered. “I hit it straight, and it wound up breaking.”After pars at 11 and 12, Rakowski ran into his only real trouble of the round. An errant drive left him no chance to advance the ball to the green, so Rakowski had to chip out then try to get up and down. He gave himself a chance to save par after hitting his third shot to within 10 feet. His putt lipped out – it was a familiar sight.
Had his lip-outs found the cup, Rakowski’s score would’ve been in the 60s, he surmised.”That’s always a good sign,” he said. “At least I was giving myself opportunities to make birdies.”Rakowski recorded a third birdie on the par-5 15th when he sank a 20-footer with a big right-to-left break. His tee shot on the par-3 16th landed 2 feet from the hole – it spun off the front of the green. He settled for par. Rakowski hit 10 fairways, 12 greens and putted 28 times.
“I was definitely satisfied with the round,” Rakowski said. “I feel great with where I’m at right now.”The win helped alleviate some recent frustrations for Rakowski. He was knocked out in the first round of last week’s match play event at Denver’s Wellshire Golf Club when his opponent holed his chip on the 20th hole. He posted rounds of 78 and 82 on Saturday and Sunday at a tournament at the Links at Cobble Creek in Montrose and wasn’t much of a factor. Still, Rakowski said his game is where it needs to be as he prepares for the fall sports season’s opening tournament Aug. 9 at Battlement Mesa Golf Club in Parachute. “It’s always fun playing high school sports,” he said. “It’s my last go-round, so I want to make the best of it.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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