Rifle High senior Taylor Walters a winner again
Post Independent Sports Editor
CARBONDALE — Getting back to the Class 4A State Championships was the primary goal for Taylor Walters on Tuesday. Getting there via another regional golf title was just an added bonus.
“That was the main goal of today,” the Rifle High School senior said following her first-place score of 2-over 74 at the Class 4A Western Slope Regional at River Valley Ranch. “It didn’t matter where I placed, as long as I made it through.”
Then she paused, smiled and added: “State is where all of the fun happens.”
She would know. Walters will head to the state tournament for the fourth time, and her score helped the Bears finish second behind first-place Montrose. She’ll also be joined by teammate Alyx Carter, whose score of 86 was good enough to give her one of 10 individual state-qualifying spots awarded at the 14-team tournament.
Montrose won the team title and will go to the state tournament as a team after posting a score of 257, with Rifle (262), Palisade (278), Aspen (279) and Eagle Valley (286) following.
It’s the second straight regional title for Walters, whose individual championship came down to the final hole. Kala Keltz of Montrose, who has traded spots with Walters at the top of tournament leaderboards almost all year, finished three strokes back in second with a 77. She was, however, within one stroke of Walters going into the par-4, 273-yard 18th hole.
Keltz took her tee shot just as a cold, steady rain began to fall on the course, and the shot landed in the deep rough to the left of the fairway. Walters followed with that same rain coming down, hitting her tee shot down the center of the fairway.
When the sudden rainstorm cleared, Keltz’s shot came across the fairway and into the tall grass on the right side of the fairway. Meanwhile, after Keltz wiped a tear on her way to take her third shot, Walters’ approach shot landed on the fringe of the green to set her up for a two-putt par.
“I felt awful. You never want to see that. I don’t want to win like that,” said Walters, who has developed a strong friendship with Keltz in the past two years. “If we would have had to go into a playoff, even better because we’d get to make those memories together. I don’t want to see anyone finish like that. But you also have to look back and think how it’s golf, and it could have been me.”
Keltz was more than appreciative of Walters, who gave her a hug on the green after the pair had finished their rounds.
“If she’s playing bad, I’ll go up and talk to her, and if I’m playing bad, she’ll come up and talk to me,” Keltz said. “It’s real friendly between us. I like it.”
Carter’s score earned her a fifth-place overall finish and a tie individually with Madison Gill of Montrose.
Another Garfield County golfer who will make the trip as an individual is Melissa Steinbach of Coal Ridge, whose score of 89 moved her right behind Carter and Gill for seventh place overall and resulted in her second trip to the state tournament.
Montrose scorers were eliminated from the standings which determined individual state qualifiers since the Indians are going to state as a team.
The state tournament will be held at Broken Tee Golf Club in Englewood on May 20 and 21.
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