2 inches too far, 1 shot too many

Walton wins regional as Sailors settle for second

Joel Reichenberger
Steamboat's Britt Walton sizes up a putt Tuesday.
Joel Reichenberger

— The cruelest part centers on Noah Bass, the Steamboat Springs High School senior who was at his very best when it mattered the very most on Tuesday, as Steamboat played host to the Class 4A golf western regional at Haymaker Golf Course.

Late in the afternoon, the Sailors already had several big things to celebrate; senior Britt Walton shot a 71 in the tournament to win by two strokes, and teammate Will Firestone was second with a 73.

That hadn’t been quite enough to shake a tenacious Durango team, however, and the two four-man squads finished their first 18 holes tied for first for the regional championship and the automatic bid for each player to the Oct. 5-6 state tournament that came with it.

It had been a great round, the Sailors said.

Walton led the way, shooting one-under par to claim his first regional title.

Firestone, too, was excellent on the day, keeping control on the rolling Haymaker course where many struggled.

“It’s a step in the right direction before state,” Walton said. “That sends a message, and Will and I are here to play.”

The first 13 finishers not included on the winning team were to earn spots at state on an individual basis, and Walton and Firestone ensured each will be making return trips.

Jack Starkey, too, did enough to advance, shooting a 79 to finish tied for eighth and earning his first trip to the big state tournament.

“I’m super excited,” Starkey said. “That was one of my goals at the beginning of the season, and I’m happy to have accomplished it.”

Noah Bass, however, needed some help after shooting a solid 83 — solid, but not quite qualifying.

It almost didn’t come down to a playoff for the team title. Walton and Durango’s Cy Spicer both just missed long putts that would have given their teams the win.

Both ended with a 223.

“That’s one of our bests scores this year,” Starkey said afterward.

Each team used all four players for the playoff with the best three scores counting, and Durango got an early advantage. After two shots, it had three balls on the green, while Steamboat sent one into the rough and two into sand traps.

Walton and Starkey both finished with bogeys, while Firestone rolled in a long putt for a clutch birdie.

Bass, however, had a chance, not just to force a second playoff hole, but to keep his own state dreams alive.

He putted from about 30 feet, and the ball rolled and rolled and slowed. The crowd — packed around the green to see the drama unfold — began shouting and cheering, urging the ball into the hole for an eagle.

“It’s exciting watching one like that,” Bass said. “You never know if it’s going to go in.”

It didn’t. It just missed, sliding two inches to the left. He sank the next tap-in putt for a birdie, but Durango made its gimmies, as well, and held on to win its third consecutive regional, this one by one stroke in the playoff.

The Sailors will send three golfers to state and leave one who, when the pressure was the highest, did everything he could to join them.

“Even if it doesn’t go in,” he said, “it’s still a great shot.”

Aspen wins in 3A

On the day, Spicer, Durango’s Cameron Barnhardt and Eagle Valley’s Barrett Jones all ended tied third at 74. Durango’s Eric Walker shot a 75, and Montrose’s Glen-Michael Mihavetz was in at 78.

Montrose ended up third overall with a 242.

In the Class 3A regional, running concurrently, Aspen’s Dominic Lanese IV was the individual champ with a score of 76, leading the way for his team to win with a 244. Montrose was second at 253.

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