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Bears golfers earn another high finish

Phil Sandoval

GRAND JUNCTION – The boys prep 2002 golf season is barely into its first week, but going by the early results, the Rifle Bears are one of the top teams on the Western Slope, regardless of classification.

Rifle concluded its two-day stay in Grand Junction with a second-place team finish in the 17-team Warrior Classic at Tiara Rado Golf Course on Tuesday. The Bears shot a combined team score of 225, five strokes back of team champ Grand Junction’s 220.

On Monday, at the season opening Grand Junction Tiger Invitational at Bookcliff County Club, Rifle was third among 16 participating teams.

“These guys are making me look good,” said first-year coach Steve LeDonne of the Bears’ early success. “As good as they have looked so far, we’re looking for some better things in the future.”

One thing the coach can count on is that any of his golfers can pick up the slack when one has a bad day.

Jim Owens, playing in the team’s fourth slot, led Rifle by carding a personal-best 1-under round of 70 on a Grand Junction golf course. The score tied him for second place among individuals with Shea Sena from Montezuma-Cortez.

Jerrad Brown also finished high on the board with a 76. The score tied him for sixth place with Fruita Monument’s Tyler Nathe and Jake Hermes of Durango. Jeb Savage’s 79 put him in a four-way tie for 12th place with area golfers Adam Joiner of Roaring Fork and Glenwood Springs’ Sean Flohr and Michael Mericle from Durango.

Doug Kirchner came in at 83, and Cole Manuppella, Monday’s Tiger Invitational champion, struggled a bit on the tougher Tiara Rado course and finished with a 84.

Owens said the key his performance was making his putts.

“I didn’t have any three-putts today. That really helped me out,” he said.

The newly-formed Roaring Fork High School team also had a good effort.

Playing in their first tournament under its own banner, instead being merged with Basalt as they have in years past, the Rams finished sixth overall at 236.

Sean McMechen had Roaring Fork’s best round. His Tuesday total of 75 placed him fifth overall. Next came Joiner at 79, followed by Chris Webster and Bryant Maggert, who carded 82 and 83, respectively. Jake Boyle rounded out the Ram team at 90.

Glenwood coach Norm Bolitho said Tiara Rado is a tougher course to play than Bookcliff, “because the course has more trouble.” The Glenwood shot 244 as a team, tying for 10th place with Cedaredge.

“We were hitting great all day,” he said. “Each kid is one bad hole away from shooting well,” the coach said of the team’s early performances.

Bolitho said that Flohr was on his way to finishing in the low-to-mid 70’s before having a struggle getting past Hole No. 6.

“(Sean) was all right, but he took a 10 on No. 6 … that was the only problem he had all day.”

Jesse Hansen, Andy Buchholz and Jacob Zieman all finished inside the 80’s, posting scores of 82, 83, and 89, respectively.

Connor Frey, in his first tournament of the season, posted a 91.

Rifle and Glenwood will participate in two more tournaments this week before returning home for a few days.

The Bears travel to Pagosa Springs on Wednesday and wrap-up the week Thursday at the Cortez Invitational. Glenwood has a day-off before resuming play at Cortez, followed by the Durango Invitational on Friday.


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