Durango High School golfer Ethan Whidden was waiting for his breakout round. The senior has had a number of good showings in 2019 to follow up a 10th-place finish at last year’s Colorado High School Activities Association’s Class 4A state championship. This year, he has started to find his stride again.
Whidden, son of Antoinette and Wade Whidden, finished in 11th with an 8-over-par 79 at the Durango Hillcrest Open on Monday at Hillcrest Golf Club. He knew his score could have been a bit better, with some putts that barely lipped out. Tuesday at Dalton Ranch Golf Club, those putts dropped on an even more challenging course, as he shot a 2-over 74 to win the tournament by two strokes. Only two weeks away from regionals, he is confident in every component of his game.
“Golf is a game of patience,” Whidden said Monday. “I’ve put a lot of work into this season. The first tournament of the year at Pagosa Springs, I had six drives that went out of bounds. (At Hillcrest), I had six or seven potential birdie putts that lipped out. With regionals around the corner, I know that I can put it all together.”
Before Tuesday, Whidden’s previous best finish of the season came Aug. 21 at Black Canyon Golf Course in Montrose, where he tied for first at 5-over 75.
During his senior season, Whidden has strolled golf courses with confidence and increased focus. That has come from a summer of practice with teammate Levi Tichi, who has helped Whidden with club and shot selection strategy.
“Last year, I wasn’t 100% confident in the shots I was hitting, and I’d pull out a club and I wasn’t completely sure with hitting a draw around a tree or a low fade,” Whidden said. “I worked on different shot shaping and being confident in whatever club I pull out – I know I’m going to hit it well.”
Even if Whidden is unable to carry the team in a given round, he certainly has plenty of other teammates who can score low. Levi has been at or near par in a few tournaments, including his 1-under 70 on Monday, while Anthony Flint, Luke Tichi and Luke Ford have also shot low this season. That will help the Demons mightily against Class 4A powerhouse Montrose at regionals and state. The Demons have proved this year they can hang with the two-time defending state champions, and the only obstacle left is to beat them.
“Levi has been playing great golf, and he’s been playing to his potential. The mental side of his game has improved, and right now, he’s striding and I’m hoping he can carry that through state,” Whidden said. “I’m waiting for us to crush everybody. I’m just waiting for and I know it’s going to happen. We’re all hitting the ball well, it’s just a couple of holes that aren’t there, but one day, we’re going to go low.”
Last season, Whidden’s game came together at the perfect time of the year, and he finished strong with an appearance on the all-state team after he placed 10th. DHS head coach Kirk Rawles said that one area that could will Whidden to a strong finish would be his competitive edge.
“I like his intensity and where he’s at,” Rawles said. “He’s got all the elements and every facet of the game and loves it, and I really do think he’s in a great spot. His turn will come when we’re going to need him, and he’s going to be there for us.”