Moffat sees one state qualifier, one alternate during regional tourney
CARBONDALE — It was a time to shine Tuesday morning, Sept. 20, at River Valley Ranch Golf Club as the Bulldogs prepared for their biggest test this season during CHSAA’s Class 3A Region 4 Tournament.
Ultimately, it was a mixed bag for the Moffat County foursome with one previous state qualifier getting a guaranteed slot at state and another on the cusp.
With the top two teams allowed to take their full rosters to state, Vail Mountain School and the hosting Basalt Longhorns locked up eight qualifiers with respective scores of 225 and 226, with the Gore Rangers’ Felix Gruner winning it all at 70 strokes.
With the Bulldogs placing seventh of 15 teams, junior Aron Jennings led the squad with an 83, ranking 19th. Jennings tied for ninth at last fall’s regional event.
While he’s shot continually in the 70s this year, Tuesday proved a struggle for him despite familiarity with the course after an August tournament in Carbondale and a practice round that treated him well.
“I holed out in the practice round from 106 (yards) on hole 9,” he said. “Then today, I lipped out on an eagle putt. The green was sloped to the left, and I just missed it — so close. Then, missed the birdie putt, too. My last hole, I had to three-putt for a bogey. No birdies all day.”
Still, he was pleased to be on the right side of the leaderboard, which sends the top two teams of four and next 13 players to state.
“It was just a tougher course this year,” Jennings said.
Missed it by that much
Senior Lance Brackett’s 41 strokes on the front nine were one better than Jennings’ 42, yet a few too many bogeys on the back brought his final score to 85.
“That last hole I bogied off a birdie putt, so I could have shot an 84, which was pretty unfortunate,” Brackett said. “I still struck the ball pretty good. It was a good start — par, par, par and then bogey. There was a group of six holes where I just wasn’t in it, but then I got back in it. That’s golf — it challenges and humbles you, but that’s what makes us love the sport.”
Brackett was on the verge of state — tying for 21st with Gunnison’s Mason Weitman — and the two immediately went into a playoff round to determine who would move on to the next level.
Weitman hit from the first tee box with a long drive that pulled left into the rough. However, Brackett wound up in the adjacent water hazard, and Weitman finished with the win.
Brackett shook hands with his opponent and joined his Bulldog teammates. Moffat County coach Tim Adams could tell achieving alternate status for state was bittersweet given that Brackett was two strokes away from state last year.
“I know how bad he wanted it this year,” Adams said. “You never hope someone gets sick, but maybe he’ll still get to go.”
The Dogs had an athlete at every grade level at regionals, including freshman Kolten Vasquez, whose 113 placed him 56th. He blew up on hole 15 with a 10, but also redeemed himself as the only member of his team to shoot par on the long No. 2 hole.
As far as personal goals, sophomore Jayden Evenson had one the best performances of the Bulldogs and finished 30th with an 89, his best score to date.
“He really has improved dramatically this year,” Adams said. “I think once he matures a little more physically, he’ll get the distance he wants. He was only four shots off from going to state.”
Jennings — and possibly Brackett — will shoot at the 3A state championships Oct. 3-4 at Denver’s Pinehurst Country Club. Regardless of whether he gets to play at state, Brackett said golf is something he still cherishes.
“I only picked up a golf club for the first time my junior year, but I put in thousands and thousands of hours,” he said. “This became my hobby, my sport, and I really tried to put in the work.”
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