Cottonwood champion wins without the breaks

David Pressgrove

It’s commonplace for friendly wagers, such as “I bet you 20 bucks I can make this put with my 3-wood,” to be made during a round of 18.

And it looked as if Steamboat Spring’s Jeff Franks had made that bet with his group the final nine holes of the Yampa Valley Golf Course’s Cottonwood Classic on Sunday.

Franks, the defending champion of the Cottonwood, used his 3-wood as his putter on the back nine.

But it was not the time to make a friendly wager.

“I broke my putter on the ninth hole,” he said. “I chucked it nonchalantly at my bag, and it just broke.”

At the time, Franks and Luke Antonelli, of Rifle, were playing closely for the lead.

But let’s just say Franks won’t be making that 3-wood bet anytime soon.

“It was no fun at all,” he said. “I think I was in the lead at 13, but then I had 2 four-putts on the back nine.”

Antonelli was preparing for a close match down the stretch when the club broke.

“I was ready for it to be an interesting back nine,” the senior-to-be at the University of San Diego said. “But once his club broke and I birdied 13 and 15, I felt pretty good about my chances.”

Antonelli went into Sunday one stroke ahead of Franks with two rounds of 71 and 72. The winner finished the tournament with a 72, and an overall score of 215. He finished six strokes ahead of Brandyn Binkley of Grand Junction and Franks.

The final group of Antonelli, Binkley, Franks and P.J. Zenewicz finished its round just as the sun was starting to set on the course. Two rain delays sent the golfers into the clubhouse for about two hours in the afternoon.

“I didn’t think we were going to get it in,” Antonelli said. “But when they said we had four hours of light left, we got out there and booked it.”

Antonelli said that everyone picked up the pace after the second rain delay and that he liked that style.

“It probably helped me in the end,” he said. “I’d much rather just hit it and haul and not think about it too much.”

This was his second Cottonwood Classic. He played three years ago.

“I’ve wanted to come back, but I’ve had scheduling conflicts,” he said. “It’s just a good golf course and a nice tournament.”

There were only three bel–ow-par rounds all weekend. Antonelli, Franks and Steamboat Springs’ Ryan Brees shot 71,71 and 70, respectively, on the first day.

Preston Ivy finished with the best score of all Craig golfers. He shot a 231, which was three shots out of the money in the championship flight.

Erik Griffin and Brady Vir–den, recent graduates of Moffat County High School, enjoyed their first Cottonwood.

“In high school, you’re all worried about getting everything done in a one-day tournament,” Virden said. “It’s nice to have a chance to come back the next day.”

Both golfers improved every round, with Virden shooting a 78 his last day and Griffin turning in an 81. Their rookie experience included money.

Virden’s 247 was good enough for a tie for fifth in the second flight, and Griffin earned a pay out with a tie for eighth in the same flight.

“It’s a little bit of a different atmosphere,” Griffin said. “It’s competitive but it’s fun, too.”

It’s fun as long as you don’t have to use your 3-wood to putt.

“I guess I can’t even toss my putter at all anymore,” a somewhat dejected Franks said. “It would have been a lot easier with that putter, and who knows.”

It’s a safe bet that Franks will be gently placing his putter in his bag for a while now.

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