When the Durango High School girls golf team tees up June 21-22 at Common Ground Golf Course in Aurora, the Demons will have a chance to chase a team state championship.
DHS placed second Wednesday at the 4A Region 1 tournament at Country Club of Colorado in Colorado Springs. The three-player team score of 59-over-par 272 put the Demons 42 shots behind regional champion Discovery Canyon but was 14 shots ahead of Cheyenne Mountain on a course in the Cheyenne Mountain neighborhood.
The top-two teams from regionals qualify for state along with the top-eight individuals not on a qualifying team. That means DHS will get to take all three players to the state tournament in Aurora.
“It was a tough course, but I am really proud of our team for taking second place against some tough, top-seeded teams,” DHS head coach Kirk Rawles said. “We are looking forward to state.”
Emily Cheng, a Discovery Canyon sophomore, won the regional with a 2-over 73. She was one shot better than Pueblo South senior Zoey Rodriguez, who was unable to sink a long, breaking putt on No. 18 to force a playoff.
Cheng played the closing three holes at 1 under, while Rodriguez was 3 over down the stretch after she had birdied No. 15 to take a three-shot lead.
It was a double bogey for Rodriguez at No. 16 to cut her lead to one. The par-3 No. 17 would be decisive, as Cheng made a birdie while Rodriguez had a lengthy par putt burn the edge of the hole. She settled for bogey, and the players went to 18 after the two-shot swing.
Discovery Canyon’s Christina Cheng finished third after she shot 77. Lewis-Palmer’s Kalai Hamlin was the only other player in the 54-player field to break 80. She shot 79 to finish fourth.
For Durango, senior Lilly Tichi led the way with an 85 to finish seventh. After a 4 over start, she made birdie on the par-5 fourth hole. She made two consecutive pars to close out the front-nine and make the turn at 6 over. But two more double bogeys prevented Tichi from gaining much steam on the back-nine on her way to the 14-over-par score.
Durango sophomore Zayda Mestas tied Discovery Canyon’s Mena Song-Lew, a junior, for ninth after they both shot 91. Mestas made five pars during her round to go with eight bogeys, four doubles and one quad.
Also for Durango, sophomore Natasha Walcott fired a 96 to placed 13th. She had five pars on her scorecard and played three of the four par-3 holes at 1 over after taking a triple on No. 17, which played as her second hole of the day.
“Putting was the big thing today,” Rawles said. “They are big greens that are fast and tough and hard to read for all the players.”
With a couple of holes for Mestas and Walcott of quadruple bogey or worse, Rawles knows both players will be able to improve on their scores at state and give the Demons a chance to contend for a podium spot.
Durango junior Summer Bonnar had a tougher day with a 120 to finish 31st overall. She had one par on her card on a historically difficult course that features plenty of water hazards. Because she did not finish within 10 strokes of the final qualifying score at the regional, she will not contend at state for the Demons but will be back as a senior next year to look to punch her ticket.
DHS’ three qualifying players will have some time to prepare for state and will travel to Aurora to play a practice round at Common Ground Golf Course on June 20 before the two-round event starts June 21.
“Depeding on the setup and greens at state, it should probably play easier,” Rawles said. “We will do some recon on the course layout, then play mimicking the yardages at Hillcrest, Dalton Ranch and possibly Glacier Club. We will work on lots of short game with lag putting and chipping out of the rough, as all three had good ball striking and driving today.”