Rakowski, Basalt golfers on top in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Rakowski, Basalt golfers on top in Aspen

Jon Maletz
Mark Fox/The Aspen TImes

It may not have been their best effort but, for the Basalt golf team Monday at the Aspen Golf Course, it was good enough. Again.

The Longhorns (238), despite shooting one stroke worse than their cumulative score in a fifth place finish last week at Yampa Valley Golf course in Craig, topped a field of 15 at the Aspen Invitational. Durango was second but was 10 strokes behind Basalt, which won its eighth tournament in 11 this season.

On a day when scores for much of the field soared, Longhorns Connor Rakowski shot a 5-over-par 76 to win his first tournament of the year. Jason Whitney of Glenwood Springs shot 77 and Tyler Coates of Durango 78 to finish second and third, respectively. Aspen finished fifth.

“Everyone did have a bad day, we were just the best of the worst,” Basalt coach Pat Riley said. “I really didn’t think we had any chance to win. The greens gave the kids fits.”

Three and four putts were the norm during much of the day. Longhorns No. 1 Jim Knous four-putted the 512-yard par-5 seventh en route to posting a10. He finished with 79.

Rakowski was able to rebound after a four-putt double bogey at No. 16.

“For some reason these greens were very hard to putt on.” he said. “I had trouble reading the break.”

The junior opened play on No. 2 with a drive that split the fairway, but came up short on his second shot and could not get up-and-down for par. After four straight pars, Rakowski walked away with birdie on no. 7. His 7-iron from 190 yards on the par-5 landed 20 feet from the hole; he narrowly missed his ensuing eagle attempt.

He followed with bogey, par, bogey and three-putted the 11th green from 15 feet for another bogey. After a par at No. 12, Rakowski was able to get up-and-down from a bunker on No. 15 for birdie on the par 5.

Rakowski and others struggled all day. Skiers Matt Butler and Trent Manchester both shot 84, well above their averages on their home course. Interestingly, Aspen coach Henry Adams said he expected the favorable conditions to yield a winning score in the high 60s.

“Everyone would think that, looking at the course, that the course played really tough and the players struggled. That’s not true,” he said. “Good players play a very consistent game and don’t have many bad holes. [Monday] Today every one of the good players had a bad hole. That’s where scores ballooned.”

After his double at 16, Rakowski said he worked hard to keep a cool head. After talking in passing with teammate Nick Johnson, Rakowski was well aware that he was still in contention. He calmly parred his final three holes to claim the title.

Such a performance was the ideal confidence boost for Rakowski, who shot a lackluster 83 in Craig. It comes at an opportune time; both Basalt and Aspen travel to Delta Sept. 20 to compete in 4A regionals at Devil’s Thumb Golf Club. Only two teams will advance to state.

“These last few tournaments have been good for us because we won’t get overconfident,” said Riley. The Longhorns took second at regionals in 2005.

Adams believes his team has a shot next week. The Skiers finished fourth in Delta on Aug. 30.

“We haven’t been shooting lights out, but we’re not far off,” Adams said. “We have to step up to the plate and shoot a good number.”

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

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