It’s deja vu for A.J. Joiner |

It’s deja vu for A.J. Joiner

Mark Fox/The Aspen Times

Roaring Fork golfer A.J. Joiner has read this script before.

One year after losing in a playoff at the Skier Invitational to a player from Durango, Joiner once again walked off the 18th at the Aspen Golf Club after a congratulatory handshake with a Demon. This time it was Keenan Holt.

“This is the third time in the last three tournaments that I have finished second,” Joiner said. “I watched Keenan stuff his shot to five feet, and I knew I had to make a good shot. I knew I had to give that putt a run.”

After shooting even par rounds of 71, Joiner and Holt headed to 18 for a sudden-death playoff. Holt’s tee shot on the 365-yard par-4 split the fairway; Joiner missed in the left rough.

Holt’s second shot rolled to a stop five feet below the hole. Faced with the strong possibility his opponent would make birdie, Joiner executed a pitch that came to rest 10 feet above the hole. He was left with a difficult downhill right-to-left attempt for birdie.

As players from the 12 teams watched anxiously from the second-story porch of the clubhouse, Joiner’s putt grazed the left edge. After taking a moment to read the break and gain his composure, Holt followed with a confident stroke, sinking his birdie to seal individual-medal honors.

Durango shot 228 to win the team title. Glenwood Springs finished in second with 234, while Montrose and Battle Mountain shared third with matching 235s.

“I played well today, but for the second year in a row, I came up short,” said Joiner, who won the Grand Valley Invitational Aug. 11. “I just can’t seem to pull this one out.”

A day after taking home both team and individual honors at River Valley Ranch, Basalt High School was three shots better with a 238, but finished fourth in its last tournament before regional play next Wednesday. Sophomore Connor Rakowski led the way with a 76 and sophomore James Knous, who was a medalist Monday after shooting a 72, finished with an 80.

Brian Mason recorded his best score of the year with an 82 for the Longhorns, who have finished first and second two times each in 10 tournaments this fall.

“Yesterday the winds were blowing 20-30 miles an hour and the kids did really well to adjust,” Basalt first-year head coach Pat Riley said.

“Today was a different story. Golf is a funny thing, and even the pros go through it. One day you can shoot 66 and the next you come out with a 76.”

Home-course advantage proved to be minimal as Aspen struggled with inconsistent play en route to a team score of 242 and a sixth-place finish.

The Skiers’ No. 1 golfer, Teddy Karlinski, epitomized Aspen’s problems. After four-putting the 10th green, Karlinski eagled the par-5 15th; he needed just a pitching wedge to reach the 517-yard hole’s green in two. He finished with an 82.

Matt Butler recorded a 79, Wylie Melberg shot 81, and Murphy Fyrwald finished with a 92 for the Skiers, who tee off this morning at Vail’s Cotton Valley Ranch Golf Course.

“I wasn’t consistent at all. My approaches were bad, and I couldn’t get a ball on the green,” Karlinski said. “I was trying to work on my game, and I kept thinking about it, which took me out of rhythm. I have one more tourney, so I hope I can turn it around.”

The Skiers and head coach Henry Adams know they will need to improve their play next week at the Yampa Valley Golf Course in Craig if they are to advance to the state tournament. Only the top-two teams qualify at each regional.

“I know this team can play better,” Adams said. “Out of a conference of 21 teams we’re in sixth place. We need to bring our play up a couple more notches. We’re really close.”

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