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Martin makes it 10 straight

Jon Maletz
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” A field of more than 60 golfers quickly became a race between two at Friday’s Aspen Invitational.

Grand Junction Central High School’s Melissa Martin and Fruita Monument’s Whitney Rahm were nearly 10 shots ahead of their nearest competitors on the back-9. The two were tied as they stood over putts on the 17th green. Martin lined up a 15-footer for birdie and the outright lead.

As she watched her competitor’s ball roll toward the hole, Rahm, last year’s Aspen Invitational winner, contemplated her round thus far. She had started strong, with a par on her first hole, but followed it up with a four-putt and a dou­ble bogey at the second. Still, she was at the top of the leaderboard after working around a few three-putts.

Rahm would come up one stroke short. Martin’s birdie putt fell, and Rahm’s birdie attempt from 10 feet on the next hole rolled close, but didn’t drop into the cup. Martin posted a 1-over 73 to take individual medal hon­ors ” her 10th consecutive tournament win this season.

“It was a lucky putt,” Martin said. “If it hadn’t hit the hole, it would’ve probably rolled off the green. I’ve never seen greens like this.”

Rahm settled for second and a 2-over round of 74. Rifle’s Loren Forney took third with an 82. She was joined in the top five by teammates Ashley Chastain (84) and Kori Kosht (84), who helped the Bears capture the team title with a combined score of 250 ” nine better than Grand Junction and 15 better than Fruita Monument.

“I’m still mad about that four-putt,” said Rahm, who finished second to Martin at March 18’s Tiger Invitation­al at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction. “I had 20 putts on the front ” that wasn’t good.”

Martin was more relieved than elated following a round in which she ” scrambled the whole time.” She sprayed the ball in every direction off the tee and on her second shots for much of the round. She managed to hit just five fairways and 10 greens in regulation. Martin, however, did capitalize on multiple long par attempts to stay near the top.

She flexed her muscles on the course’s longest holes, birdying three of the Aspen Golf Club’s four par-5s.

“It feels really ugly,” she said. “I was hitting the ball everywhere, up, down and in every direction. I talked to God a lot during my round.

“You have to be able to grind it out and work through it.”

Rahm fired a 2-under on the back, including a stretch where she birdied two of three holes, to keep pace. But, when Martin’s putt on their 17th hole fell, Rahm could not answer.

“There are a few shots I’d like to have back, but I was happy to keep up with her,” Rahm said. “I kept waiting for her putt to roll by. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t.”

Nicole Twohig turned in Aspen’s low round of the day with a 97, good for 14th place. Teammate Shelby Butler finished 22nd after posting a 104; had it not been for a 10 on the card, Lyndsey Jackson shot 131she may have cracked the top 15.

Ashley Fish’s final competitive high school round didn’t go as planned ” she fin­ished toward the back of the pack with a 118 ” but you would never have known it. The Aspen senior’s upbeat persona never wavered, even after she severely sliced her drive on the par-4 11th and played much of the hole from the adjacent fairway. After chipping to within 10 feet, Fish coaxed her ensuing putt into the hole, then raised both hands in celebration; it was a scene reminiscent of Phil Mickelson’s birdie on 18 at the 2004 Masters.

“Shots like those are the ones that keep me coming back,” said Fish, who won’t participate at regionals May 8 in Rifle because of IB exams. “The last three days, my swing has been in a funk. I don’t know what it is. My first drive was great, but it was all downhill from there.

“You have to stay positive. If you don’t, the game will be 100 times worse.”

Fish, a constant in the school’s golf program the past four years, has made a strong and lasting impression on her young teammates, head coach Mary Woulfe said.

“She’s been a great inspiration for our freshman,” Woulfe said. “She’s always been that way. She’ll be a big loss for us and for Aspen High School.”

Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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