Luke Tichi has some stiff competition on the golf course and running trails in and around Durango. The junior at Durango High School has found a way to excel at both golf and cross-country this season, and a large part of his competitive drive is coming from within his own family.
Luke’s younger brother, Levi, a freshman at DHS, is the Demons’ No. 1 varsity golfer this season and has shot in the 70s in every tournament this season. But Luke is not far behind, and the junior hopes to make a second consecutive trip to the Colorado High School Activities Association Class 4A state golf tournament later this month.
“He’s pushed me a lot,” Tichi said of his younger brother. “He’s been playing so consistent, and it’s great. Sometimes it’s a little frustrating getting beat by your younger brother, but I think it’s super exciting having him on the team. Going on trips with him and doing stuff like bowling or whatever, it makes it that more entertaining.”
After a slow start to the season, Tichi found his swing at Monday’s Hillcrest Invitational. He shot 6-over-par on the front nine but rebounded and played a bogey-free back nine, with a 2-under par performance. He birdied Nos. 6, 10 and 17.
The solid round came after his best performance of the year in cross-country, as he achieved a personal best for the Demons at the Liberty Bell Classic with a 16-minute, 35-second 5-kilometer race that helped Durango to a sixth-place finish as a team. He bested his previous best time by 1:16 seconds.
Demons cross-country head coach Ken Flint said that balancing the demands of being a two-sport athlete in the same season can be a struggle, but it makes the competition that much more exciting.
“He’s performing well for us so far and has gotten better every week,” said Flint. “He’s smart enough to figure out how to juggle and excel at both sports. It’s a joy to have him out there competing for us.”
Tichi’s schedule is demanding. He spends two to three days a week on the golf course and then puts on his running shoes to practice with the cross-country team two to three days per week.
During the first week of school, Tichi, son of Kerry and Mike Tichi, missed the first five days because of sports with either the golf or cross-country team. He has since adjusted to the hectic schedule and managed to find time for each sport. During a two-day golf trip to Grand Junction earlier this season, Tichi ran on the hotel treadmill instead of going for a swim with his golf teammates.
Being an upperclassman on a team that will look to advance to the state tournament can be filled with plenty of pressure-packed moments. But DHS golf coach Kirk Rowles has been impressed with Tichi’s leadership and constant desire to improve – even if it is small things such as communicating with the team.
“Luke has really stepped up his leadership role,” Rawles said. “He did some leadership courses at the school over the summer, and I think it’s worked out well. He’s my go-to guy for communicating with the team, and, tonight, he stayed late to help me put the scores in the computer and up online. He’s a real steward of the game and really loves golf and all the nuances of it.”
No matter what route Tichi decides to go – toward the trails or the greens – he knows that either will make him happy.
Tichi wears a “Kenya” bracelet that was given to him by fellow cross-country teammate Noah Bodewes after a trip to the African country during the summer. He wears it at every golf tournament to give him a reminder that he has more than one path to choose from.
“I think the big thing about being a two-sport athlete in the same season is picking times to manage (each sport),” Tichi said. “The bracelet reminds me that no matter what happens on the golf course, I’ve got running, and vice versa.
“I can think about how if that’s not going too well, I can always come back to the golf course. I just like remembering both teams.”