Bears set to swing at state golf tournament |

Bears set to swing at state golf tournament

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen Post Independent fileRifle High School boys golf coach Jordan Smith, left, and Triston Quigley chat during a tournament at Battlement Mesa Golf Club earlier this season.

RIFLE, Colorado – Danny Bartels’ golf game turned the corner upon listening to a cassette tape.

“We listened to a cassette tape of Tiger Woods’ therapist,” the Rifle High School junior recalled. “That really helped us get in the right mindset. I went from shooting like a 93 to an 85.”

The gist of the message?

“The message was that the swing you bring to the course is the swing you bring,” Bartels explained. “Don’t try to change that when you step on the course. The swing you have is the swing you have. Pick a small target and aim for that. The shot you hit is the shot you’re going to hit the whole time, so don’t get angry and don’t try to fix things. Try to play the shot that you brought.”

That was a few years ago. These days, Bartels and his teammates regularly shoot in the 70s and regularly contend for team honors at tournaments.

At the 4A Western Regional in Cortez almost two weeks ago, the Bears finished in a dead heat with Montezuma-Cortez atop the team leaderboard. Buoyed by an eagle on the first playoff hole, Cortez escaped with the victory.

But that didn’t bring Rifle’s season to an end.

Three Bears – Bartels, Triston Quigley and Ty Caron – qualified for the Class 4A state tournament that day. All shot in the 70s and all are bound for Montrose’s Cobble Creek Golf Course for the two-round state affair, which takes place this Monday and Tuesday.

By virtue of sending three to state, Rifle will compete for a team score there. And that’s a big deal to the trio, who are close friends on and off the course.

“Ever since we were little,” said Quigley, a senior who, like Bartels, will be making his third straight state appearance. “Danny and I have played baseball together ever since we were little kids. Both Danny and I started really playing golf in eighth grade. Ty’s a junior, but he’s been right along with us playing golf. I’ve known him for a long time, ever since middle school.”

Playing on a big stage alongside your friends will be a boost, Caron said.

“They kind of push you through when maybe you’re not having the greatest day,” said the junior, who will be making his second consecutive state appearance. “They’re there to help you, to be there for you all the time.”

And, no matter the tournament, those teammates are always charting each other’s exploits. Coach Jordan Smith keeps everyone apprised of scores as he makes the rounds at various tournaments.

“He keeps us updated,” Caron said. “And he keeps on giving us good thoughts, you know. He helps us with our confidence.”

Smith, an English teacher at Rifle High School, is much more than a deliverer of score news. The former Muskegon Community College (Mich.) golfer has brought much to the program in his two seasons on the job.

“I’m so glad to have him as a coach,” Caron said. “I wouldn’t trade him for anybody else. He’d do anything for you. It’s nice having a coach who’s really committed to us.”

And he’s guided the Bears to big-time success. Last year, they finished second behind Aspen at the 3A Western Regional. To make a jump in classification to 4A and still qualify three players to state is no pedestrian feat.

“Going from 3A to 4A and making it, that’s pretty cool,” Bartels said.

Qualifying is nice, but Bartels, Quigley and Caron now hope to cobble together some good scores in Montrose.

Said Caron: “If we just come together, have fun and play our game, we’ll have a good score as a team.”

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