DHS golfers bounce back

Whalen’s third helps Demons finish third on home course

Durango High School senior Lexi Whalen was consistent Monday, firing an 89 to finish third overall and lead the Demons at the DHS Invitational at Hillcrest Golf Club. Grand Junction Central won the tournament. Kirland Central finished second. Durango was third. Enlarge photo

Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald

Durango High School senior Lexi Whalen was consistent Monday, firing an 89 to finish third overall and lead the Demons at the DHS Invitational at Hillcrest Golf Club. Grand Junction Central won the tournament. Kirland Central finished second. Durango was third.

Firing 18 shots on her first two holes wasn’t the start Natalie Lyon had in mind.

Fortunately, four pars and a birdie in the span of six holes is quite the cure, no matter the start.

Lyon fired a 42 on the back nine Monday to finish with a 95 at the Durango High School Invitational at Hillcrest Golf Club, while Lexi Whalen finished third overall for Durango High School with an 89.

The Demons were third in the seven-team field with a three-player tally of 290.

Durango senior Jessi Wymore and junior Haleigh Lyon fired identical 106s for DHS, while Brooke Kniffin fired a 110.

Grand Junction Central won the team event with a 261, led by medalist Sarah Robbins with an 83 and runner-up Brittany Hoppe with an 85.

Whalen was third with Kirtland Central’s Summer Tsosie fourth with a 90.

Whalen, a senior, has been hovering consistently in the high-80s and low-90s with her scores, and she stayed steady Monday, despite being disappointed with her putting. Still, after performing uncharacteristically subpar at the home meet her first three years, Whalen’s not complaining too much.

“I feel like I could’ve shot so much better; there were tons of puts that I missed, just short little putts, but I’m happy with it,” said Whalen, daughter of Teri and Gary Whalen.

“I’m much happier than when I shot a 14 on a hole last year, and it’s not my high score ... so that’s an improvement.”

Whalen’s day could’ve been a bit worse if not for a key sand save on the par-3 fifth hole. Her shot out of the front right bunker landed within two feet of the pin, leaving her with an easy tap-in par.

Natalie Lyon’s day didn’t start so hot as she carded an 11 on the par-4 first and triple-bogeyed the second hole.

But her play on the back nine may have been her most solid effort of the season. She birdied No. 11 and had pars on holes 12, 14, 15 and 16 to keep her score in double-digits.

A couple of nice drives of 250 yards or more in that stretch was key for Lyon, setting her up with simple chips and putts for par.

“You know, it doesn’t hurt to have a 260-yard drive,” said Lyon, daughter of Chris and Doug Lyon. “Definitely on (No.) 16, it helped me out being right next to the green. ... My tee shots are really what made it happen, I guess.

“I just focused a lot more on my putts than I usually do. I kind of ran around the pin and looked at the putt from a different direction.”

For Durango head coach Kirk Rawles, Lyon’s ability to bounce back from a couple of rough holes bodes well as regionals draw near.

“But to come back and shoot 42 on the back nine, pretty impressive,” Rawles said. “And that’s the gut-check for every golfer is to really step up and try to finish the day after a start like that.”

After Central, Kirtland Central was second with a 275, followed by DHS.

Aztec was fourth with 291, Fruita Monument fifth with a 295, Grand Junction sixth with a 303 and Piedra Vista seventh at 323.

Farmington had only two players and didn’t qualify for team standings.

Piedra Vista beat out Kirtland Central, Aztec, Piedra Vista and Farmington to win the boys event of New Mexico teams with a four-team total of 340.

Kirtland Central’s Tristin Goodwin was medalist with a 76.

While Rawles was happy with a third-place finish given the competition, he’s hoping to trim the team score down into the 270s in the season’s final two events before regionals.

Bounceback performances from Haleigh Lyon and Kniffin could get the Demons to that target.

“Ultimately, I think as a team score, breaking the 270 number is a good goal for us, which means we would have at least one in the 80s and a couple in the low 90s. So I think 270s for this team is achievable,” Rawles said.

rowens@durangoherald.com