Putts didn’t drop for Ethan Whidden on Monday at Hillcrest Golf Club. They did in bunches Tuesday at Dalton Ranch Golf Club.
The senior helped Durango High School win for a second consecutive day on home courses, as he fired a 2-over-par 74 to win the Durango Dalton Ranch Open by two shots ahead of teammate Anthony Flint.
“It’s really exciting,” Whidden said. “We put a lot of hard work into this. Winning back-to-back home tournaments and having the confidence to know we can beat all these other teams consistently, it’s nice having that going into regionals and then state, especially.”
Whidden had only 27 putts Tuesday and one three-putt. He started his day with a birdie and was even par through 11 holes before a triple bogey on the par-3 No. 12, which played 187 yards. He found a birdie on the par-5 No. 16 to get into the clubhouse at 2-over.
“The putting was working for me today,” Whidden said. “I struggled with it Monday, but today I rolled the ball nice. I felt like I couldn’t miss. My tee shots weren’t even that good, but I saved myself on the greens and with approach shots.”
Durango shot 229 as a team to back up its 222 at a day earlier at Hillcrest. Piedra Vista once again finished second with a 236, and Fruita Monument was third with a 239. Palisade shot 249 to take fourth, while Grand Junction Central was fifth out of 11 teams at 257.
“I think it’s actually tougher sometimes to defend home turf,” said DHS head coach Kirk Rawles. “There are more eyeballs on you, a lot more distractions, and you know the expectations and put that on your shoulders. I’m really proud of the team. We had a lot of rounds in the 70s the last two days, and it was huge for us.”
Flint, a sophomore, had another round in the 70s, as he shot 4-over 76. After an early bogey, he got to 3-under through nine holes. His score would go as high as 5-over with three holes to play, but a quality birdie at the 386-yard par-4 18th helped him finish strong.
“I started out really good,” Flint said. “I had a few silly mistakes, but, overall, I hit the ball good today and am pleased with that. I felt comfortable and knew where to hit it here.”
Piedra Vista’s Justin Harris and Quinn Yost tied for third at 77. The Panthers will try to win a third consecutive Class 5A state championship in New Mexico this season, though the effort will come without the previous years’ best three players. But head coach Tom Yost likes the Panthers’ chances when state is held in the spring in Hobbs.
Grand Junction’s Carson Kerr was tied for fifth on Tuesday, as he matched Fruita Monument’s Josh Stouder with a 78.
Luke Tichi gave the Demons a solid round of 79 to finish alone for seventh and complete the Demons’ varsity scoring trio. Two birdies in his first eight holes had him under par for a bit before one bad hole, the par-5 16th, saw him surge as high as 9-over. But Tichi responded with two birdies in his final three holes to break 80.
Levi Larson shot 83 for Durango, while Levi Tichi shot 84 a day after he won the Hillcrest tournament with a 1-under round of 70. Luke Ford shot 85 for the Demons, while Sten Joyner and Jacob Genualdi shot 87. Michael Marquez also shot 88 for the Demons to give the Demons nine players in the top 25.
A day earlier, Durango had 20 players compete at Hillcrest. There are 40 players on the team this season, and everyone is excited about the youth within and coming up behind this year’s varsity squad.
“Our varsity only has three or four seniors. Once we leave, whoever is below us has to step up,” Whidden said. “They are out here posting some scores, and it’s exciting to see them shooting low, playing on a hard course and having fun.”
Next up for Durango is the regional tournament Sept. 23 in Pueblo at Desert Hawk. Then, Montrose, the two-time defending state champs, will host the Class 4A state championships at The Bridges Golf Club. Durango hopes to bring four players to state.
“Dalton was the toughest test we have before state,” Flint said. “It was a good tuneup on a tough course. You know if you can shoot good here that you can play Bridges.”