The boys high school golf season has begun, and the Durango Demons have their roster set for Monday’s tournament at Adobe Creek National Golf Course in Fruita.
The Demons will be led by juniors Anthony Flint and Luke Tichi, two players with plenty of varsity experience. Tichi qualified for the state tournament last year, while Flint narrowly missed the cut for state at the regional qualifying tournament.
This year, both aim to make the trip to the CHSAA Class 4A State Golf Championship at Eisenhower Golf Course on Oct. 5-6 at the Air Force Academy. Flint said he would like to finish in the top 20 in state this year, while Tichi aims to improve on his 21st-place finish from a year ago.
“I’d like to win state. It’s always been a goal,” Tichi said. “I like our team this year, and we have a couple of guys who can shoot well behind us. I think we can do well.”
It’s a different kind of season with COVID-19 health protocols in place. Travel will be more difficult for the Demons, especially for back-to-back tournaments with overnight stays that are currently not permitted. So, DHS head coach Kirk Rawles will rely on more parent involvement on road trips to try to get players to as many events as possible.
Before each practice, Rawles also has to administer a temperature check. Players go to practice in a mask and stay well spaced across practice areas at Hillcrest Golf Club. It’s all part of the landscape for sports in 2020.
“It’s different,” Rawles said. “At tournaments, most are all going to tee times instead of shotgun starts to avoid having big groups of 80 or 90 golfers all on the course at once and to make sure they’re not all on the driving range together. There won’t be award ceremonies after tournaments, that kind of stuff. And there will be fewer teams at tournaments, especially our home tournaments without the New Mexico schools being able to play this fall.”
Rawles said he has around 30 players on the team this year, and the number has only increased since the fall sports of football and boys soccer were moved to the spring. During a nine-hole varsity qualifying round Thursday, Rawles set his varsity lineup for next week’s tournaments in Fruita and Montrose. Flint led the way with a 2-over-par 38. Tichi shot 39, Luke Carlson posted a 42, senior Jake Genualdi finished with a 45, and A.J. Folk shot 47.
Rawles expects more players to challenge for the back end of the varsity rotation all season, and he plans many more qualifying rounds to help encourage competition during a season in which the Demons may not travel to as many events. He also hopes to set up some friendly competition with the Fort Lewis College men’s team.
“We have a lot of sophomores that are going to compete for that fifth spot,” Rawles said. “Spots three through five could change a lot this year. We have a young squad, so they are going to put the miles in where they can.”
Flint is excited about the potential for the team. After years as an underclassmen with talented players in front of them, it is now Flint and Tichi taking the younger players under their wing.
“We looked up to the past guys for a long time. Now, it’s good to mentor the younger guys,” Flint said. “We have a really strong younger crew we can grow with since Levi and I are just juniors.”
Flint, who is also a basketball star for the Demons, said he was able to work more on his golf game this summer without basketball tournaments to attend. He feels stronger with his putter and has made six- to 10-foot putts at a higher rate.
“Those are momentum savers,” he said.
Tichi feels confident with his iron game and approach shots into greens. Though he hasn’t had a chance to play in as many tournaments this summer, he said he feels pretty good going into next week.
The Demons will host tournaments Sept. 14 and 15 at Hillcrest and Dalton Ranch, respectively. Those will be the final tuneups before regionals Sept. 21 in Pueblo. Rawles believes the Demons will be able to contend when that date comes around.
“Genualdi has had some rounds in the high 70s, and Carlson has some scores in the low 80s,” Rawles said. “If Anthony and Levi stay where they’re at, I always say regionals is only one day, so if you get three guys clicking on one day, that’s enough. That’s really what we need to build toward. You get to that one day and hope everybody performs to their best. I think we will stack up OK.”