Durango High School head coach Kirk Rawles had never had a varsity girls golfer shoot lower than 80. He also never saw a team score as low as the Demons did Monday at Bookcliff Country Club in Grand Junction.
Led by Tichi’s 7-over-par 78 to win the Tiger Invitational on Monday, the Demons shot 246 as a team to beat Vail Mountain by eight strokes. Montrose finished third with a 279, Fruita Monument was fourth at 282, and Gunnison was fifth at 302 in the loaded 14-team field.
“We hit a major milestone,” Rawles said. “It’s a landmark win with us shooting 246, the lowest our program has ever shot. Lilly was huge for us, and the supporting cast doing that, everybody shooting in the 80s and 90s, is really what you need to do, and we were able to do it.
“I think we are certainly going to be competitive with this team this year and am very optimistic about what we can do the next month.”
Tichi’s 78 was one shot better than Vail Mountain freshman Logan Hale to give her medalist honors. She made a birdie on the par-4 ninth hole to make the turn at 2 over, and she didn’t record worse than bogey on any hole on the back-nine to finish 7 over.
“It’s pretty awesome, the first time I’ve been under 80 in any round, so that’s pretty cool,” Tichi said.
Backing up Tichi was sophomore Zayda Mestas, who shot 12-over 83 to tie for third. Durango junior Summer Bonnar, who had a birdie on the par-5 12th, shot 85 to finish sixth. Natasha Walcott shot 94 to tie for 11th and send the Demons to the team victory. DHS senior Kathryn Paul also shot 100 to finish 17th.
“We didn’t get to play last year, which was unfortunate, but to see this team come out of the gates without a lot of experience and learning as they go, they have been so smart about what they’re doing and all having a ton of fun acquiring knowledge and wanting to get better,” Rawles said.
The Demons turned around Tuesday and won again at the Wildcat Invite at Adobe Creek National Golf Course in Fruita. Tuesday, the Demons shot 262 to beat Gunnison by 17 shots. Fruita Monument was third with a 288, Montrose was fourth at 295, and Palisade was fifth with a 321 in the nine-team tournament.
Tichi again fired a 78. This time, that was 6-over-par. But Eagle Valley junior Kylee Hughes shot 2-over 74 to win it.
Tichi started Tuesday on the back-nine and made the turn at 7 over with two double bogeys on her card, but she shot 1 under on her final nine holes with birdies at Nos. 3 and 8 with one bogey on No. 7, a par-5.
“That 1 under today is a first for me, as well,” Tichi said. “I’m just focused and having lots of fun right now.”
Tichi said she has put in more practice than ever before coming into her senior season and feels confident tee to green, where her putting has always been a strength.
“I put a lot more hours in than I have during a normal season. I’m just not doing a ton right now other than golf,” she said. “My consistency with ball striking has really improved.”
Rawles was even more impressed with Tichi’s 1 under on her last nine holes, as she played alone without her coach there to give any advice.
“Her focus, being in the moment for every shot has been impressive,” Rawles said. “The goal was to see how many greens she could make in regulation. She’s charting her own game, taking control and ownership of her game. When you see a player shooting that well, you want to steer clear and let them go.”
Also for DHS on Tuesday, Walcott and Mestas both shot 92 to tie for fifth. Walcott birdied the short par-4 No. 8, while Mestas had birdies on Nos. 5 and 9. Bonnar placed ninth with a 96. Paul tied for 23rd with a 115.
“It’s super fun seeing everyone having a good time,” Tichi said. “This team is new to this, so seeing them post all these low numbers is exciting for the whole team.”
Next, DHS will host a small meet May 19 at Hillcrest Golf Club. Though the Demons are hitting new highs by going low, Rawles believes there is plenty of room for improvement before regionals and state.
“For me, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think we’ve peaked yet,” Rawles said. “We really need to work on our putting on different kinds of greens before we go to the Front Range for regionals and see all those teams. That’s been a thing that has gotten us in the past is getting used to different greens.”