Pressure building for prep golfers

Cortez wins on Day 1 of Durango Invitational

Durango High School freshman Cory Gillespie tracks the flight of his ball toward the sixth green Monday at Hillcrest Golf Club on the opening day of the annual Durango Invitational. Gillespie led the Demons with a 6-over 77. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald photos

Durango High School freshman Cory Gillespie tracks the flight of his ball toward the sixth green Monday at Hillcrest Golf Club on the opening day of the annual Durango Invitational. Gillespie led the Demons with a 6-over 77.

Durango High School golf coach Kirk Rawles hoped to create tournament pressure at the annual two-day Durango Invitational.

Halfway there after Monday’s opening round, Rawles and the golfers have more tournament tension than they could have imagined.

“We’ll decide it (today),” Rawles said after Jakob Rudosky of Montezuma-Cortez and Greg Gibson of Grand Junction tied for medalist honors Monday with matching 73s at Hillcrest Golf Club.

The two will determine the individual champion of the Durango Invitational today at Dalton Ranch Golf Club, where the prep golfers will play 18 more pressure-packed holes.

The team scoring after Day 1 was nearly as close as the individual standings with five teams within 10 strokes of first-day team champion Montezuma-Cortez (227).

Fruita Monument, paced by Troy Dangler’s 74 and Will Berg’s 75, tied for second place with Montrose at 233, five strokes back.

Montrose was led by a 75 from Zane Sauer and a 78 from Jacob Hebbel on the par-71 layout at Hillcrest.

Durango was two more strokes back at 235 (for the top three golfers). Grand Junction is at 237.

“Playing at home ... got me very motivated (Monday morning),” said Durango freshman Cory Gillespie, who led the Demons with a 77.

He moved into position to contend for the first-day lead when he dropped a long birdie putt at No. 16, just north of the Hillcrest clubhouse.

“Then, I had trouble ... at 17. I tried to hit a shot I hadn’t played in a while, and it put me in a bad spot,” Gillespie said.

Another bogey after an errant second shot at 18 finished his round at 6 over.

“Not bad with a double (bogey at 17) ... it could have been better,” said Gillespie, the son of Jackie and Tracy Gillespie.

“I’m looking forward to (today),” said Gillespie, a left-hander on the golf course who writes and throws righty. “I’ve played Dalton (Ranch) a bunch.”

Teammate Bo Ward, who shot a 78 Monday, also is familiar with the Dalton Ranch layout in the Animas Valley.

“I like it,” Ward said of today’s course. “I’ve played it a few times. I played there last year ... I shot an 82 there last year. I hope I can do better (today).”

Ward, the son of Deedee and Dug Ward, said his putting helped him Monday at Hillcrest – until the 18th hole.

“That 3-putt on the last hole killed me,” Ward said. “They had the pin tucked back pretty tight.”

Trevor Bogus and Cameron Barnhardt each shot 80 for the Demons. Eric Walker added an 81 for the DHS varsity – five players within four strokes.

Kirtland Central finished sixth with a 244 composite score Monday. Gunnison (251), Piedra Vista (252) and Grand Junction Central (252) followed.

In addition to Rudosky’s 73, Cortez carded a 76 from Hayden Plew and a 78 from Keith Hawkins to win Monday’s team title.

Because girls golf is a fall sport in New Mexico (it’s a spring sport in Colorado), Rawles and the Demons always invite the New Mexico girls teams to play in the Durango Invitational.

Kirtland Central won Monday’s girls title with Aztec second, led by individual champion Brooke Raney (86).

Kyla Jones and Darmika Frank, both of Kirtland Central tied for second at 88.

Aubri Blueeyes and Rachelle Marquez of Aztec tied for fourth.

Today’s final round of the Durango Invitational will feature a 10 a.m. shotgun start at Dalton Ranch.

dstrode@durangoherald.com

Durango junior Bo Ward drops in a putt at No. 6 en route to a 78 at Hillcrest Golf Club. Ward and the Demons will play 18 holes at Dalton Ranch beginning at 10 a.m. today. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Durango junior Bo Ward drops in a putt at No. 6 en route to a 78 at Hillcrest Golf Club. Ward and the Demons will play 18 holes at Dalton Ranch beginning at 10 a.m. today.

Cameron Barnhardt of the Demons went to the air for a chip at No. 6 on the opening day of the Durango Invitational. Barnhardt shot an 80, helping the Demons post a 235 – good for fourth place. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Cameron Barnhardt of the Demons went to the air for a chip at No. 6 on the opening day of the Durango Invitational. Barnhardt shot an 80, helping the Demons post a 235 – good for fourth place.