Skiers falter on tricky Rifle Creek course
Aspen junior Gordon Weihe said it best, moments after he walked off the 18th green Monday at Rifle Creek Golf Course.
“I asked him how it went, and he said ‘I almost lost a box of balls, but it sure was pretty back there,'” Skiers assistant coach Gary Snyder remembered Weihe saying. “We had a hard day individually.”
Only junior Trent Manchester had experienced Rifle Creek’s tight fairways, rock-strewn hazards, long brush and sharp doglegs before Monday’s round. The unfamiliarity showed, Snyder said, on a tricky course. Aspen, playing with two new players, posted a cumulative score of 258 to finish seventh out of 14.
Basalt, Fruita Monument and Steamboat Springs, schools that have battled for the top of the leaderboard thus far this season, did not compete.
Weihe, a transfer from Houston, filled in for sophomore Taylor Huskie who was on vacation; freshman Garret Green played in place of injured freshman Gerald Hua. Hua experienced pain in his back during Thursday’s round at the Links at Cobble Creek in Montrose. He sat out Monday and is expected to miss Wednesday’s tournament at Eagle Vail Golf Club.
Rifle Creek provided a staunch test for Aspen and the entire field ” the low round of the day, recorded by a player from Rifle, was 4-over-par 76. Problems arose on many of the back nine’s short doglegs, where players had to decide whether to play conservatively and leave themselves with long second shots, or gamble. Those who took a chance and hit through the dogleg risked going into a hazard or hitting the ball clear through the sloping fairways.
Dramatic elevation differences also befuddled competitors. The change in height from tee to green on multiple par-3s made choosing between clubs difficult, Snyder said.
Throw in 95-degree heat and hills, and scores rose substantially.
“If you played this course enough, you’d know which club to hit and it wouldn’t be that difficult,” Snyder said.
“When you’re guessing on clubs, you’re tentative on the swing, too. It’s a bit discouraging and really gets on your mind.
“This is generally a tough course for new guys on the team to be playing for their first match.”
Rifle Creek proved difficult for every Skiers player, regardless of his level of experience. Newcomers Weihe and Green posted a 97 and a 105, respectively. Freshman Conor Hansen shot 94, Manchester an 84 and Senior Matt Butler a 7-over 79 ” three shots higher than his round at Cobble Creek.
Butler, who was undone by a double bogey Thursday in Montrose, had a double bogey, multiple bogeys and a lone birdie on the card Monday. While his teammates posted noticeably lower scores on the front nine, which was flatter and more straightforward, Butler posted a 39 going out and a 40 coming in.
“The back nine wasn’t harder if you know how to the keep the ball in play,” Snyder said. “Matt’s experience led to steady play that helped him stay in the game.”
The Skiers will look to rebound Wednesday in Eagle Vail.
A local kid got on the X Games Aspen podium on Sunday night, but it wasn’t the one most people expected. Even Jon Sallinen didn’t think he’d be taking home a medal.