4A girls golf: A new approach at a familiar place | PostIndependent.com

4A girls golf: A new approach at a familiar place

Jon Mitchell
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
Rifle High School's Elly Walters tees off on the fifth hole at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction during the Tiger Invitational tournament in March. Walters, a freshman, will be considered one of the top contenders when the Class 4A State Championships take place at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale May 18 and 19.
Jon Mitchell / Citizen Telegram |

A few things have definitely changed since Melissa Steinbach first qualified for the Class 4A State Championships back in 2012.

The most obvious one simply revolves around her age, as the Coal Ridge High School senior was a freshman the first time she qualified for the state girls golf tournament. Another is her overall game, with that improvement playing a major factor in her reaching the final field of 84 in each of her four years of high school.

Last but not least is how she approaches the state tournament. It’s safe to say she takes things a lot more seriously now.

“During my freshman year, I basically said to myself, ‘Hey, I made it, and that’s what counts,’” Steinbach said. “But now that I’m older and a lot more experienced, I actually want to do something. It doesn’t matter if it’s Top 40 or Top 20 or whatever. I want to be competitive, especially since this is my last chance.”

Steinbach is one of three Garfield County golfers who will be in the final field of 84 when the 4A State Championships take place at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale. The others are Rifle High freshman Elly Walters, a medalist winner in four tournaments this season, and Glenwood Springs freshman Lauren Murphy, who has finished either first or second in all but the Western Slope Regional at Montrose this past weekend. The state tournament runs from May 18-19.

Last year when the 4A tournament was played at the Country Club of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Steinbach finished tied for 45th with Estes Park’s Kandra Bellman with a two-day score of 190. She was slightly lower than that as a sophomore at Broken Tee Golf Course in Englewood, finishing tied for 39th place with Arvada’s Samantha Salazar at 184. In her first year when the tournament was played at Boomerang Links in Greeley, she finished tied for 73rd with a 203.

And each time she played, she felt like she was at a disadvantage from the start.

“I don’t know what it is,” she said. “It seems like every time that I played at state, I would be in a group with someone who would tell me, ‘Yeah, this is my home course.’”

That won’t be a problem this year. Steinbach’s home course might be Lakota Canyon Ranch in New Castle, but she said that she’s played at RVR eight times. With that, she feels her knowledge of the course — which she readily stated rewards accuracy and placement rather than home-run tee shots — will make a big difference in her placing higher than ever.

“I’ve always wanted to break 80,” she said. “This would be a great time to do that.”

Walters hasn’t had any trouble doing that over the course of the season. She took medalist honors in three of the first four tournaments she played in and didn’t dip below a Top 5 finish all season despite, until this year, never playing any kind of regular tournament schedule.

“It’s been a pretty cool experience,” Walters said. “I’m just happy I get my chance now.”

Steinbach is grouped with Monte Vista’s Shelby Hindes and Pueblo Centennial’s Emma Robinson when they start the tournament on hole No. 10 at 9:15 a.m. on May 18. Walters will be with Evergreen’s Natalie Holley and Pueblo West’s Sam DeNardo when they all tee off on hole No. 1 at 8:30 a.m.

So, in her first state golf tournament, Walters gets the tournament’s first tee time — something she feels could play to her advantage.

“I really like that, actually,” Walters said. “I’m a pretty impatient person, so this will give me a chance to play really fast without having to wait on anyone else in front of me. Plus, it’s early. That means there’s less time for the butterflies to build up.”

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