When Durango High School golf coach Kirk Rawles randomly handed out bags to more than 20 girls at the start of the spring season, chance delivered a special bag to sophomore Lilly Tichi.
Durango’s players were forced to begin the season with practice indoors in the wrestling room. After some creative practices, the weather finally allowed the Demons to head to Hillcrest Golf Club for work on the driving range. Tichi began to set up her bag with balls and tees when she unzipped a pocket and found a piece of paper inside. She thought she recognized the handwriting on the note, and it didn’t take long to confirm her suspicion that the bag’s previous owner was none other than her older brother Luke, a junior who competed for the Durango boys varsity golf team in the fall. When Lilly found the note, she began to read it aloud, much to the delight of her teammates and coach.
To the Tichi siblings, the golf bag has taken on a life of its own. After the season, Luke Tichi bestowed the name “Phil” onto the red bag that serves the sole purpose of carrying 14 clubs while strapped to a player’s back for 18 holes at a time.
“Luke loves Phil, but they have a rocky relationship,” Lilly said during a recent practice. “But Luke’s bad golf isn’t Phil’s fault. Phil is my best golf friend, he’s helping me, I think. I’m having a lot more success with Phil than Luke.”
Luke blamed Phil for some of his struggles last fall. He came close to qualifying for a second consecutive state tournament appearance but missed qualifying by two strokes. Younger brother Levi Tichi qualified as a freshman, though.
During the fall season, Luke credited Phil for his 10 he took on a hole in Pagosa Springs and an 11 he put on the scorecard on the par-5 fourth hole in a home round at Dalton Ranch Golf Club. Still, Luke had a strong season, as he placed fifth in the home Hillcrest Invitational with a 4-over-par 75 and a fourth-place finish at Pagosa Springs despite the 10 recorded on the par-5 No. 4. He had several more top-15 finishes. But Phil took the blame for any rough patches on the course.
“It gave me the hooks,” Luke wrote on the note left inside the bag. “It helped me suck at golf. It is a red bag. It is named Phil. Hope you enjoy it more than me. Good luck with your season.”
While the bag has a name, it doesn’t have any other distinguishable markings to set it apart from the other bags. Lilly said she was nervous she may not select Phil this season but was relieved when she found the note inside.
“I was kind of pumped because going into it I was kind of nervous,” she said. “When I read the note, I was like, ‘Oh, we’re good, I got Phil.’ It’s pretty random when we pick bags. Quinn (Griswold) has a bag that is super faded, and that’s the one she always chooses. The rest of us, we just go up and grab a bag.”
Luke said he actually hoped another girls player would find the note to give some mystery to it, but the bag has brought some luck to his sister.
“To be honest, the whole note was more or less a joke and a little memento as a tribute to my roller-coaster of a season,” he said. “I never referred to the bag explicitly as Phil, but when you have something like a bag with you throughout the whole nonsense of a season, I guess I saw fit to name it at the end. I’m just glad the girls team sees the humor in the note.”
Golf has helped bring the Tichi family together over the last five years, and all of the Tichi children have excelled in the sport from a young age.
“Our parents (Kerry and Mike Tichi) and grandparents got us into it,” Lilly Tichi said. “It’s something our whole entire family can do together and have fun. I have some good competition against my brothers. Obviously, I’m not beating them, but I want to win holes against them.”
While Luke didn’t make it to the state tournament with Phil a year ago, Lilly is well on her way toward qualifying. She tied for fifth at the Montrose tournament April 3, was seventh in the Grand Junction tournament held April 8 and had a career-low round Monday with a 15-over 87 to finish tied for third at the Dolores tournament held at Conquistador Golf Course in Cortez.
She will look to clinch her spot at state during the regional tournament May 6 at Adobe Creek Golf Club in Fruita. If Lilly can bring Phil to state, she will claim bragging rights over her older brother.
“The golfing gods were kind of smiling down on Lilly when she got that bag,” Rawles said. “Phil didn’t work for Luke, but it’s definitely worked for Lilly. With a name like Phil on a bag, how are you going to go wrong?”