Moffat County golfers Andujo, Jennings show their drive at state tourney

Andy Bockelman
For the Craig Press
Aron Jennings, left, and Dave Andujo pose for a photo in front of the state championship tournament banner this week as the pair took on the end-of-year tournament.
Courtesy photo

With great energy and focus to start the 3A State Championships, Moffat County High School golfers Dave Andujo and Aron Jennings looked to end the season strong this week.

The two-day tournament held Monday and Tuesday at Elizabeth’s Spring Valley Golf Course saw Andujo place 49th and Jennings tie for 50th in a field of 84 players, with Aspen winning the team totals and Vail Christian’s Conner Downey the individual champ.

Early success

Following a Sunday practice round on the premises, MoCo athletes both started from Spring Valley’s 10th tee.

While Andujo was accustomed to the setup, head coach Tim Adams said that it was Jennings’ first time shooting at the state level, and the amount of spectators was slightly overwhelming.

“He told me later it was really nerve-wracking,” Adams said of Jennings. “There are more people there when you tee off than you’ve ever played in front of in your entire life, and they announce your name. He topped the ball on 10, didn’t even make it to the fairway.”

Adams added that Jennings’ first few holes were “a learning experience.”

“The first day he got off to a really rough start, he doubled his first hole on 10, bogeyed 11, doubled 12, I think he bogeyed 13,” Adams said. “Then he kind of got on track, calmed down. Once he settled down he played really well.”

Jennings began breaking even by the 15th hole and finished the back nine with a 44. On the front, he ended the day with a 4 on every hole, with birdies on 5 and 9, amounting to being right in line with the Par 36, an 80 for the opening round.

“Once you get into a groove, you start thinking it’s just like any other round of golf, and the nerves dissipate and they start to play well,” Adams said.

Andujo, in his third straight state tourney, had an even better day, in fact the best round he’s shot all fall. A -1 on Hole 11 came right before a +3 on 12, but that was his only slip-up for the day, earning a 42 on the back nine and a trio of birdies on the front, where he also broke par to make his total 78.

Adams noted that a highlight of the first day was a nearly 40-foot putt on the sixth green, where Andujo surprised him with a birdie.

“It was a Par 4, and I told him when he walked up to the green he’d want to putt for the second putt to set himself up so he wouldn’t have a ton of work to make par,” Adams said. “And then, he just sank it, so I told him that’s even better.”

At the end of the first day, both Bulldogs were each in the top half of the leaderboard. Andujo was tied with three others for 22nd and Jennings one of eight ranked 35th.

The final stretch

Compared to what Adams deemed perfect conditions Monday, the wind kicked up Tuesday to make things a little tougher for everyone.

“The second day they could just never seem to get it rolling, it felt like they were scrambling the whole day,” Adams said.

Starting from Spring Valley’s front nine this time, Andujo was already at +4 after the first three holes before a birdie on the fourth. He managed a 43 on the front before shooting an 8 on the 10th hole. The 46 he would record on the back nine ended with a -1 on the Par 5 Hole 18, for an 89 on the round and a two-day total of 167.

“I was pretty happy with it still,” Andujo said. “It wasn’t the exact way I wanted to end high school golf, but I’m still happy.”

Jennings was one stroke ahead of his teammate for the latter day with dual 44’s. Though he had no birdies, he parred nine holes with his highest score being a 7. His final tourney score was 168.

In his fourth occasion overseeing players at state — twice before with the boys team and earlier this spring for girls — Adams said he’s noticed a pattern with players experiencing fatigue in a format that’s twice as long.

“I think there’s an aspect of it that’s just different, so there’s always a drop-off the next day,” he said. “Last year, David didn’t, he shot an 80 both days, but I kind of remember the second nine on the second day it kind of caught up with him. I think some of it is the kids get tired. It’s a lot of golf, it’s competitive golf, which is a totally different thing than just going out and playing with your friends.”

He continued that the mental part of the game tends to take a beating.

“I had one of them tell me the other day, ‘Well, I’m in good shape.’ And I know physically, I’m not worried about you being able to walk 18 holes, but it’s the mental side of it,” he said. “Every other tournament they go to is one day, all they play is 18 holes, and they don’t have to think about tomorrow. They’ve just got to get up for that one day. The one thing I’ve got to figure out is how to mentally condition and prepare them for that. It really makes you appreciate what professional golfers go through.”

The future is bright

Adams commended both players for a season full of improvement.

“Aron played well, and for a sophomore going to state, he was great. I think he has a really good work ethic, works really hard at his game. The future’s bright for him for sure,” Adams said. “He said to me his goal was to make state, so next year he’ll make some different ones that I think will be achievable for him.”

Having guided Andujo on the links since he was a sophomore, Adams said it was bittersweet to see off the senior.

“Dave has a ton of talent, and he’s been fun to coach. He’s an easy kid to coach, always listens,” he said.

He added that Andujo has built up a reputation for being a favorite among other teams to be paired with on any given course.

“Other kids from other schools really enjoy playing with Dave. I really appreciate that, because one thing we really emphasize with the kids is being respectful, and sportsmanship is such an important part of golf,” Adams said. “Both of them have great sportsmanship and have great respect for their opponents. That’s such a characteristic of Dave, especially, is he respects his opponents, they respect him, and his teammates respect him. We’ll definitely miss his leadership next year, but there’s other kids who are going to take the baton, for sure.”

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