Manupella wins Tiger Invite in sudden death
GRAND JUNCTION – Cole Manupella may be the number-two golfer on Rifle High’s depth chart, but he was the No. 1 player at Monday’s Tiger Invitational.
The Bear junior sank a five-foot birdie putt in the second sudden-death playoff hole at Bookcliff County Club to win the opening tournament of the 2002 boys prep golf season.
At the conclusion of 18 holes, Manupella had shot a 2-under par round of 74, tying him with Nate Walla of Aspen, Shea Sena of Montezuma-Cortez and Evan Pressley from Moffat County to set up the tie-breaker.
Pressley was the first to fall out of contention when he failed to par the 18th hole.
Moving over to No. 1, Sena was the only one of the three remaining golfers to hit a tee shot on the fairway.
Walla and Manupella’s opening drives on the second playoff hole went left of the fairway, settling into some fridge besides the hole.
Both players made up for their poor tee shots with terrific second shots.
Manupella’s drive hit the green, then took a favorable bounce, leaving him with a difficult, but makeable, five-foot putt.
Walla came even closer to the hole.
Hitting from an up hill slope beyond the asphalt cart path leading to the green, the Aspen High senior stuck a drive that landed a mere two feet away from the cup.
Despite the good lie Sena had, the Cortez golfer failed to take advantage. His second shot landed on the backside of the green.
Being the furthest away from the hole, Sena had first crack at the hole.
He came up short.
Walla followed. And with a barely more than a tap-in needed to take the lead, the Skier golfer had the advantage.
He also came up short.
The miss rejuvenated Manupella’s confidence.
“Soon as Nate missed that putt, I knew it was all over,” said Manupella afterwards. “All I had to do was concentrate on making that one shot.”
Taking little time to measure up his shot, Manupella drained his putt in the center of the hole.
Manupella said going into the playoff, he was confident of winning the tournament.
“You have to think like that,” he said. “If you don’t you’re not going to do it.”
Manupella accomplished his goal, but left first-year coach Steve LaDonne weak in the knees as he watched his golfer from the sidelines.
“I’ve been playing the game for 43 years,” said LaDonne, who’s also the head pro at Rifle Creek Golf Course. “It’s easy when you’re playing, but I had my guts up in my throat during that playoff hole.”
“I was very impressed with Cole today. What more can you say?,” the coach added.
Prior to Monday’s tournament, Manupella won the pre-season Soda Pop Open at the Glenwood Springs Golf Club.
As a team, the Bears were just as good.
Led by Manupella’s 74 in regulation, Rifle finished in third place in the 16-team tournament with an overall score of 227. Aspen won the team title by shooting a 225, Cedaredge was second, a stroke back at 226.
Senior Jerrad Brown, Rifle’s number-one golfer and Jeb Savage, a junior, tied for seventh place on the leaderboard with identical rounds of 77.
Doug Kirchner finished among the top 20 individuals with an 81. Jim Owens ended the day with an 89.
Glenwood Springs coach Norm Bolitho also had a lot to smile about after Monday’s tournament too.
The Demons finished eighth in the team standings at 241, ahead of Moffat County and Palisade.
Three of Glenwood’s five golfers finished in the Top 20.
“I’m real happy. This is the first year I have four guys that can go out and play.
I think we’re going to be competitive,” said Bolitho said of his `02 squad.
“In the past we’ve had one strong player, but we couldn’t support him,” the coach continued. “Now we have four guys and we’re close to being solid.”
Jesse Hansen had the best Glenwood round. The 79 he shot put the Demon junior in a four-way tie for 17th place with Durango’s Blake Sherman and Catlin Garcia and Fruita Monument’s Jon Schler.
Sophomore Andy Buchholz was a stroke back of his teammate at 80. Sean Flohr, another Glenwood sophomore, finished with an 82, Jacob Sieman carded an 84 and freshman Matt McAdow, in his first high school tournament, hit a 104.
The tour continues this morning at Tiera Rado Golf Course in Grand Junction where Rifle and Glenwood are part of an 18-team field of Western Slope prep teams.
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