Setting the pace: Walters, Steinbach top field in Grand Junction
GRAND JUNCTION — Melissa Steinbach of Coal Ridge looks like she’s well on her way to qualifying for her fourth Class 4A state girls golf tournament. Elly Walters of Rifle looks like she’s well on her way to qualifying for her first.
The younger Walters was the one who topped the field at Bookcliff Country Club on Monday, shooting a 3-over 74 to notch a lopsided 10-stroke victory over Steinbach’s 84 during the annual Grand Junction Tiger Invitational.
Walters, a freshman at Rifle High, is more than enjoying her first year of high school golf in more ways than one. Monday marked the third time in four tournaments that Walters had earned medalist honors — she won the Grand Valley Invitational at Battlement Mesa Golf Course on March 13 and the Class 4A event at a tournament at Lincoln Park on March 16.. Her lowest finish so far in her three-week long career came on March 17 at the Montrose Invitational at Cobble Creek Golf Course, where she finished third.
This win, however, was by far the most decisive out of the previous two. Walters, however, isn’t about to start getting cocky about her success.
“I knew that I could do this, but 18 holes is a long time to keep at it on the golf course,” the Rifle freshman said. “I’m a little surprised, yes. But I know that if I keep at it and grind it out, I should be able to keep going like this.”
Walters’ performance was good enough to help Rifle finish third in the team standings of the 11-team tournament. Eagle Valley was first with a team score of 262, with Grand Junction (269) and Rifle (272) following. Coal Ridge, paced by Steinbach’s 84, finished fifth at 299.
Walters began the tournament on the par-4 sixth hole and was consistent throughout her round, though she ended her first-nine holes with a double-bogey on the par-5 14th hole. She recovered nicely, though, playing bogey-free golf for the final eight holes. On her final hole, the par-3 fifth, she laid her tee shot just a few feet off the front fringe of the green and nailed a 35-foot putt on her next shot to exit her round with a birdie — her second of the day.
“I thought Reiley [Waldo of Durango] had a good shot in front of me, and I thought she read it good,” Walters said of a putt from Waldo, whose putt rolled well past the pin after her tee shot sat just a foot behind Walters’ lie on the green. “It was a hard pin placement, too … [the shot] kind of got away from her. So my hope was for me to two-putt, get it close and finish with a par.
“I hit it a little hard,” she continued. “But when it went int, that was a big relief because I figured I would wind up right down there with her.”
Waldo, as it turned out, finished one stroke behind Steinbach in the individual standings with an 85. Dual scores of 86 from Eagle Valley’s Taylor Sandoval and Allyson Ludewig carried the Devils to their first-place finish in the team standings, with Grand Junction’s Avery Hill and Bailey Summers each coming in next at 87.
Meanwhile, Steinbach, a Coal Ridge senior set herself up for her finish when she finished her first none holes — the tournament’s shotgun start made her opening hole the par-4 11th — at just 1-over. She readily admitted that her back nine didn’t go nearly as well as she would have liked, which led to her finial score.
“Yeah, it kind of went downhill a little bit after that,” Steinbach said, laughing.
Ironically, the par-3 No. 5 was a place where Steinbach also hit a big putt. After her second shot left her close to 25 feet away, her putt rolled to the lip of the cup and sat there momentarily before it dropped in for par.
She’s hoping that more shots like that will go in her favor in the next month as she readies for her final month of high school golf.
“I need to work on my putting,” she said. “Though [that putt on No. 5] gives me a little bit of a good feeling about some things that might come.”
Grand Valley, which finished with a team score of 398, had a pair of finishers who carded a 124 in Kayla Holbrook and Erika Anderson. Rifle’s Toni Booth finished with a 97, with teammates Caitlin Morgan (101) and Savannah Seay (106) following. For Coal Ridge, Cheyanne Williams finished with a 103, with Macy Elmer carding a 112 to round out the Titans’ scoring.
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