Boys golf season enters full swing as Liberty, Durango kids go low

COLORADO SPRINGS — Liberty's Hayden Woelk knew he he needed to make par on the home hole to give himself a chance. A fortunate bounce off his tee shot put him 152 yards out from the 18th pin at the Colorado Springs Country Club.

Ever so smoothly, he drew back his 8-iron and flushed it, sending his ball on a path directly toward the flagstick. It hit about 10 feet and he would two-putt to finish with a 1-under-par 70 to claim medalist honors at the Doherty Spartan Invite.

He would've like to make his birdie putt, but it was his approach shot that all but guaranteed his victory. He knew it when the ball was in the air and let loose a saucy club twirl, the golfer's language meaning the ball is Lansing at or near the intended target. It was so good that new Liberty coach Tom Carricato smiled and told Woelk "you hit a shot like that, you can spin the club however you want."

The junior hit 13 of 14 fairways through the day, including a bomb of a drive off the seventh tee. He rarely got himself into trouble and he worked his way around the track more efficiently than any other golfer in attendance.

"I knew I was hitting the ball well enough enough to play well today," he said. "I struggled on No. 8 a bit and made double, but I was putting well and I knew I was hitting well to score a good round today."

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

The Spartan Invite was the first golf tournament for a lot of Colorado Springs metro area schools. With a bit of an adjustment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teammates were grouped together as opposed to being spread out and paired with players from other teams who perhaps had similar skill sets.

"It's hard and it's kind of hard to focus," St. Mary's senior Peter Stinar said. "You're around all your buddies and it's definitely different. It doesn't feel like a tournament as much as it does just playing a round with your friends."

It wouldn't be a surprise if teammates were paired regularly throughout the course of the season, but that will not be the case at regionals or state.

The trick for the kids is having to adjust to playing with the same guys that they practice with in some tournaments while playing in a more traditional format in others. The team groupings worked well for Cheyenne Mountain, who shot 222 as a team to claim the team championship at the event for the second year around.

"This group is close," Cheyenne Mountain coach John Carricato said. "They're a tight group, they compete with each other and they also do it in the right way where they encourage and they're their No. 1 cheerleaders. From a coaching perspective, I loved seeing that camaraderie."

Pine Creek sophomore Wesley Erling had a bit of an up and down day but put together a round of 71 to be one of two players at even or better. He erased a double-bogey on No. 3 with back-to-back birdies on eight and nine. His lone birdie on the back nine came on the par-5 15th, but he followed it up with a bogey on 16.

Durango's Tichi overcomes slow start to claim Wildcat Invitational

According to Durango junior Levi Tichi, opening his round with a bogey is his signature move. Oddly, it makes him feel more comfortable.

Just for good measure at the Fruita Monument Wildcat Invitational he opted for two bogeys in the first three holes.

Then he got serious. He went five under over his next six holes at Adobe Creek National Golf Course, including an eagle on the par-5 fifth. He finished the day with a 67 to get a big win in the young boys golf season.

"I knew I had to be pretty patient and wait for birdies and not push too much," he said. "I made that birdie on four and hit my approach to like three feet. I followed that up with an eagle and I chipped it in. That chip-in was when I knew I was starting to play well."

Tichi was the only Demon under par and the team finished second overall to Montrose, the three-time defending state champions. Grand Junction senior Carson Kerr (71) was the only other individual to play the Wildcat Invitational under par.