Longhorns golfers make it three straight
GRAND JUNCTION Success breeds attention. Basalt golfer Connor Rakowski is starting to understand that fact well.After he and his Longhorns teammates opened the season with two straight wins, Rakowski said he can tell more people are taking notice – many watch him and other Basalt golfers warm up on the practice range. The senior might as well get used to it. A day after teammate Jim Knous fired a 3-under par 68 to earn top medalist honors and propel Basalt to its second win in as many tournaments, Rakowski did his part to extend the streak. He shot an even-par 71 on Tuesday at Tiara Rado Golf Course to lead the Longhorns to a combined score of 221, five shots clear of 5A Fruita Monument. Knous and younger brother Marty shot 73 and 77, respectively, for Basalt, which won for the 11th time in 14 tournaments dating back to last season. Grand Junction Central High School was third, 10 shots off the pace. Aspen was well back in the field of 22 schools after posting 263. Fruita’s Anthony DePalma was top medalist with a 69.”As a team we thought we’d have a little trouble, but we’ve actual come through early this year,” Rakowski said. “When you walk down the halls [at school] and see the trophies sitting there, it’s nice to know you helped out with that. “It feels like we’re setting up a dynasty for Basalt.”While dynasty talk is up for debate, Rakowski’s consistent play Tuesday was not. While he putted 38 times, Rakowski recorded just three bogeys. He opened with par at the 16th, then hit his approach on 17 from 125 yards out to within six feet. All hope for a birdie was dashed, however, when the putt slid by the hole.”I put a bad stroke on it, and it penalized me by not going in,” Rakowski said.He parred 18, then perfectly positioned himself off the tee to attack the pin on No.1. Rakowski hit his approach from 75 yards out to eight feet and sank the putt to move into red figures.He gave back a shot on No. 4 after pulling his tee shot into the rough, then three-putting from 40 feet. A three-putt at the eighth, then an errant tee shot that came to rest under a tree at the 10th resulted in two more bogeys.Rakowski responded with birdies on the short par-3 13th and at the par-5 14th to climb back to even.”I’m hitting the ball really well, but I didn’t putt as well as I would’ve liked,” Rakowski said.Putting also cost Jim, who tied for third. “I don’t know how many birdie chances he missed inside 10 feet – he should’ve had a lower score,” Longhorns coach Pat Riley said. “Yesterday they fell, and today they weren’t.”Much of after-tournament talk centered on Marty, the sophomore who, by all accounts, is the player who will determine Basalt’s ultimate fate. Riley said his goal was to have Marty shoot in the 70s by the end of the season.He’s already there, which doesn’t bode well for the opposition. Jim and Rakowski, who had finished their rounds minutes earlier, were on hand to watch Marty drain a 30-footer for birdie on No. 15, his final hole. “It’s nice to see someone like that succeed because he’s carrying quite a bit of the load for us,” Rakowski said.Conor Hansen shot 79, Gerald Hua recorded a 90 and Coby Langley finished with 94 for the Skiers, who were without No. 1 Trent Manchester for a second straight day. Manchester (practicing for football) and Taylor Huske (senior festivities), will miss both upcoming tournaments in Montrose. With many teams undoubtedly following them closely, Basalt will look to notch win No. 4 today at the Bridges Golf & Country Club.”None of us have ever played there, so we don’t know what to expect,” Rakowski said. “But I know Jim and I and Marty can play well anywhere.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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ESPN’s Winter X Games is back in Aspen this week for the 20th straight year, although it’ll lack most of the usual flair. Out of precaution to safeguard against further spread of COVID-19, there won’t be any fans, any music and, well, really anything outside of the main competitions.