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Durango golf qualifies for state

Demons finish second at 4A Region 4 championships in Grand Junction
The Durango High School girls golf team celebrates its second-place team finish on Monday at the 4A Region 4 championships, held at the Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction. From left: head coach Kirk Rawles, Ellie White, Natasha Walcott, Zayda Mestas, Jayden Craig and coach Kermit Barrett. (Courtesy DHS golf)

The Durango High School girls golf team continued to play well on Monday at the Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction. Squaring off with several top-ranked teams in the state at the 4A Region 4 championships, the Demons nearly beat them all.

Durango ended up placing second as a team with a 246, finishing just three strokes behind the No. 3 ranked Mullen Mustangs, to win a team trophy and qualify for state as a team. Steamboat Springs finished third with a 251, but had three golfers place in the top-18, so it will also get to compete at state as a team. Loveland entered the regional ranked No. 4 in the state, but finished fourth out of 14 teams with a 255 so it didn’t qualify for state as a team.

DHS was ranked No. 8 in the state, but moved up to No. 7 after its regional performance.

“For us to be that close to Mullen is a good spot for us to be in going to state,” said DHS head coach Kirk Rawles. “Getting four girls in (the state tournament) is a big accomplishment.”

Senior Zayda Mestas finished strong to shoot a 77, place fifth in the region and lead DHS. Mestas started with the tournament with five bogeys, but basically played par golf after that. She sunk two birdies, including one on Hole 18 at Bookcliif, which Rawles called “one of the toughest holes” to finish her round.

“She didn’t start off too well, but then she settled down and was 1-over on the last 13 holes,” Rawles said.

Ellie White of Durango High School watches her ball fly earlier this season. White shot a 79 on Monday at the 4A Region 4 championships in Grand Junction, breaking 80 for the first time and helping DHS finish second as a team. (Cody Olivas/Durango Herald)

Sophomore Ellie White posted her lowest score ever and was Durango’s next finisher, placing sixth with a 79.

“It’s exciting for a player to break 80 for the first time,” Rawles said. “She just got into the zone.”

After the round, Rawles said White told him that she “would hit a good drive, knock it on the green and then two-putt” it in.

“She kept it pretty simple and got into a groove,” Rawles said.

Senior Natasha Walcott rounded out Durango’s team score with a 90, landing her in a tie for 15th place.

“It was not her best day, but she still would have qualified (for state) as an individual,” Rawles said.

Walcott has also shot in the 70s this year, and Rawles said he didn’t think the team had ever had three golfers shoot in the 70s in the same season before.

Freshman Jayden Craig shot a 102 to finish 32nd out of 59 golfers, but her round also punched her ticket to the state championships. Craig needed to finish within 10 strokes of the final individual qualifier, and she finished nine back.

“It’s pretty big for a freshman (to get to state),” Rawles said. “It will give her some more experience.”

Kaitlin Zingler of Mullen won the individual title by five strokes with a 69. Sophia Capua of Vista Peak finished second with a 74 while Makena Thayer of Battle Mountain placed third with a 75.

Durango will now head to the state championships at the Thorncreek Golf Club in Thornton on Tuesday and Wednesday (May 30-31). DHS will play a practice round on Monday to get familiar with the course. DHS also has the yardage for the tournament, so this week the Demons will try to replicate it at the Hillcrest Golf Club by adjusting which tees they play from.

“I’m really optimistic going into state,” Rawles said. “We have a balanced team and any of the four players can have good days; we hope to have two good days from all four athletes next week.”

Also competing in the region were Golden (276), Battle Mountain (277), Glenwood Springs (280), Palisade (289), Montrose (291), Rifle (325), Grand Junction (334), Evergreen (350) and Eagle Valley (380).