It had been a long time since the Durango High School girls golf team saw a competitive round. Eager for Tuesday’s season opener in Montrose, the Demons never made it.
With a portion of U.S Highway 550 closed Tuesday morning, DHS had to backtrack and travel over Lizard Head Pass to make it to Montrose. With no chance of making their tee time Tuesday at Black Canyon Golf Course, the Demons went and hit balls at Cobble Creek Golf Club, the site of Wednesday’s tournament hosted by Montrose High School.
At long last, the Demons teed off the 2019 season and showed no signs of rust en route to a 55-over-par 271, which tied Dolores for the lowest score of the nine teams in attendance. In a scorecard playoff, the Demons won the tournament.
“In early-season golf, people usually say they play great when they first come out,” DHS head coach Kirk Rawles said. “That’s usually because there’s no expectations and no pressure on what you have going on.”
It was a cold, rainy and windy day in Montrose, par for the course in high school girls golf in Colorado. That didn’t slow DHS sophomore Lilly Tichi from having a stellar day, as she shot a 16-over 88 to finish in a three-way tie for fifth place.
Rifle’s Masi Smith won the tournament at 5-over-77. She was the only player to break 80 Wednesday. Grand Junction’s Brittlyn O’Dell, a winner a day earlier ahead of Smith at Black Canyon, was second at 9-over 81. Dolores’ Dimery Plewe was third at 12-over 84.
Tichi’s career-low round is an 87. That came at a practice round at regionals last year. To finish with an 88 in the season opener inspired confidence.
“Picking up where she left off last year, that in itself is strong,” Rawles said. “I have a policy with my players that if they’re playing well and going along fine, they kind of shoo me away and I go on to the next athlete, and so I didn’t see her play much today, which is a good sign for me and for her.”
Tichi made an equipment change in the last week with a new putter grip, and Rawles said she also cut down her clubs.
“For her first time playing with them, it proved to be a good move,” Rawles said. “She putted very well, and not having much time in practice on greens, that’s a great sign for any golfer but especially girls golf.”
Durango senior Madalen Meier, a Fort Lewis College golf commit, shot a 17-over 89 to tie for eighth place. Rawles called it a remarkable round, as he estimated she had 10 penalty strokes and had one four-putt on the score card.
“She had had two birdies and a par coming in the last four holes. That’s a good indicator, too,” Rawles said. “She stepped up and finished strong. I think she’s in a good position. She’s worked hard all winter working on her game and hitting balls inside.”
Quinn Griswold was the third scorer for Durango. She shot a 22-over 94, only three shots off her best high school round score. Durango senior Faith Mewmaw, a three-time state qualifier, did not make the trip because of illness. When she returns, Rawles knows he has a team that can compete among the best in the region.
“I’m optimistic about the upcoming season,” he said. “I think we need to work with the whole core of people just hitting a lot of balls. Once we do that, we can shave off a lot of strokes.”
The Demons haven’t had much time to practice outside of the high school wrestling room. With so much snow around Durango in early spring, Rawles has had to get creative with practice, though it hasn’t deterred a record number of 22 girls out for the team.
“We have been hitting Wiffle balls and little plastic discs,” Rawles said. “We set a garbage can or something in the corner of the wrestling room and try to hit Wiffle balls into it. It’s a little bit boring.
“The one nice thing is there’s a big mirror in the wrestling room, and the girls can catch their own posture and look at their position and set up. But, it’s definitely been exciting to get outside this week.”
DHS and Dolores finished two shots ahead of Fruita Monument and Grand Junction in the team scores Tuesday. Montrose was nine strokes back at 280. The Demons will see those teams a lot in the next two weeks with trips to Grand Junction for single-day tournaments. DHS will also get a look at Adobe Creek National Golf Course, the site of this year’s regional tournament. The Demons’ home tournament is scheduled for April 22 at Hillcrest Golf Club.