It was a two-Demon show in an exciting playoff on the first day of Durango High School’s two consecutive home golf tournaments Monday at Hillcrest Golf Club. Thayer Plewe of Montezuma-Cortez got the final say Tuesday at Dalton Ranch Golf Club.
The Durango Hillcrest Open featured a small but talented field Monday at Hillcrest Golf Club. DHS juniors Levi Tichi and Anthony Flint each shot 1-under-par 70. Instead of a scorecard playoff, DHS head coach Kirk Rawles set up a sudden victory playoff for the two Demons to decide the winner in exciting fashion.
Both boys would make par on the first playoff hole to force a second. Tichi grabbed his 3-wood on the No. 2 tee box for the 405-yard par-4. He found the fairway. Flint opted for his driver and pulled it left. His ball found a tree and never came out, so he would have to take a drop and work hard to make bogey. Tichi sent his approach shot long of the green, but he safely made it up and down for a par to give him a victory.
“Anthony hit the green after taking his penalty, so I figured he was going to at least make bogey,” Tichi said. “I flew a wedge over the green, but I stuck my chip to three feet and made the putt to win it.
“It was a lot of fun to win it that way in a playoff. There wasn’t a whole lot of pressure since we are both on the same team, but it was really cool to have a lot of people there supporting us. Other tournaments we go to, we have our parents and coaches. But here, we had a lot of friends and neighbors and the people at Hillcrest who know me and Anthony. It was really fun to have their support.”
It was a strong round Monday for Tichi. He was 2 over through four holes but got a shot back with a birdie on No. 5, a par-3. He would bogey the next par-3 at No. 9 to make the turn at 2 over. But then he got hot, as he birdied the par-5 10th and then made eagle on the driveable par-4 11th, which played at 310 yards. He followed it with another birdie at the par-3 12th to get to 2 under before he gave one back with a bogey at No. 13. He made par the rest of the way in to shoot 3 under on the back-nine.
Flint was as steady as he has been much of the season Monday. He had two birdies and two bogeys on the front and two birdies and one bogey on the back. His wayward drive on the second playoff hole was his lone slip of the day.
“That had never happened to me before,” Flint said of his ball getting stuck in the tree. “It took once bounce and got stuck in the bottom branch. A spectator shook it out. I had to take that unplayable penalty. It was a tough way to lose a playoff, but at least it was to my teammate.”
Plewe had a strong round Monday, as he shot even-par 71 to finish third. He had lots of circles and squares on his scorecard with five bogeys and five birdies. He was six shots clear of Grand Junction’s Carson Kerr, who finished fourth.
Durango would run away with the team victory Monday with a 224. Behind Flint and Tichi was senior Jacob Genualdi, who has solidified his place as the Demons’ strong third scorer. He shot an 84 to finish ninth. Grand Junction shot 244 to place second, and Montezuma-Cortez was third with a 252. Pagosa Springs rounded out the field with a 262.
Dalton Ranch InvitationalThere was a larger field on hand Tuesday for the Dalton Ranch Invitational. Durango again won without a challenge from Montrose, the defending Class 4A state champions which did not send a varsity team to either of Durango’s home meets.
DHS shot a 243 on Tuesday at Dalton Ranch. Tichi shot 77, Flint had an 80 and Genualdi shot 86 to get it done for the Demons. Grand Junction was second with a 261, and Montezuma-Cortez shot 266 to take third.
But the day belonged to Plewe. Though he was frustrated with a few missed short putts inside five feet, he was able to avoid disaster to shoot a 1-over 73 to finish two shots ahead of Kerr for first place.
“It’s always good to go out and post a good score on a really challenging course,” Plewe said. “The greens were a little tough today, and that’s been a big thing for me. Otherwise, I felt really good.”
Plewe had two birdies and an eagle on his scorecard, which helped him overcome a double bogey on the par-5 seventh. His eagle came on the par-5 16th and had him at 1 under for his round. Plewe would make bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18 to finish 1 over. Still, it was plenty to give him medalist honors.
“I hit it pretty good both days, Plewe said. “I’ve been playing pretty good the last couple of weeks. This is a good place to be. My swing is in tempo, my chipping has been getting a lot of work, and the short game is almost there.”
Kerr shot 2 under on the back-nine at Dalton Ranch to put himself into a tie for second place with a 75 after three bogeys and a double bogey on the front had him at 5 over. Telluride’s Gage Gehan matched that round of 75 despite a pair of double bogeys on Nos. 4 and 5 that had him at 4 over. Two birdies on the back before a bogey on No. 18 had him flirting with a solo second place.
Tichi’s 5-over 77 was good enough for fourth Tuesday. He was 8 over through 10 holes, but birdies on Nos. 12 and 17 with an eagle on No. 16 helped him avoid a larger number.
“I was kind of furious,” Tichi said of his 8 over through 10 holes. “So, I put my head down on hole 11, took a couple of deep breaths and decided it was time to go. To finish the way I did is really good. I feel relieved now to pull it out through those eight holes.
“(Flint) and I have had the same scoring average all season. I wanted to make something there to put some distance between us. When you’re in the 70s, each shot becomes so huge. To make that par putt on 18 was big for me.”
Flint didn’t have a birdie on his card Tuesday. He had four bogeys and two doubles. But he shot only 2 over on the back-nine to leave the course feeling better about his round.
“I just didn’t quite execute some shots today,” Flint said. “At Hillcrest, you can kind of hit it anywhere and save par. But if you do that at Dalton, you’re making bogey or double. Some of those kind of hurt me.”
Genualdi was alone in sixth with his 86, a score that drew the praise of Flint on a tough course.
Justin Brunner of Montezuma-Cortez had a strong round going on the front, as he made the turn at 4 over. But Dalton Ranch put a dent in his scorecard on the back with two double bogeys and a quadruple bogey on 18, leaving him with an 88. He had shot 85 to tie for 10th at Hillcrest a day earlier.
When Brunner is playing well, Plewe likes the Panthers’ chances at regionals, though the team will need to solidify its third position to contend at the 3A Region 4 tournament next week. Montezuma-Cortez is the defending regional champion.
“We took a big hit with Robert (Hebert) being gone, but (Brunner) is playing well and we got a third man who is picking up his game a bit,” Plewe said. “Hopefully, we can just go out and post a good score at regionals.”
Durango will play in the 4A Region 1 tournament Monday at Desert Hawk Golf Course in Pueblo. State runner-up Pueblo West will present stiff competition to the Demons, but the play of Flint and Tichi and the consistency of Genualdi has DHS excited about its chances to contend.
The winning team and runner-up at regionals will send its entire team to the CHSAA Class 4A State Championships at Eisenhower Golf Club at the Air Force Academy at the beginning of October. The next 10 individual players in the field will also qualify.
“Getting these tournaments the week before regionals, hopefully we can carry this into next week,” Flint said. “It’s a pretty wide open course in Pueblo, but the greens are tough and a little inconsistent. The practice round will be important to know which greens are softer and which are harder. It’s a pretty short course, so hopefully we have a lot of drivers and wedges into the green and can make some putts. It’s Pueblo West’s home course, and Ponderosa is pretty tough, but we hope to play well enough to send our whole team to state.”