Panthers seek 3-peat

M-CHS golf team begins quest for 3rd straight Western Slope title

Jakob Rudosky eyes his shot on the 18th green at the Montezuma-Cortez High School golf team practice Tuesday morning. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Jakob Rudosky eyes his shot on the 18th green at the Montezuma-Cortez High School golf team practice Tuesday morning.

The Panthers golf team officially teed off Monday morning in defense of their Western Slope region championship.

Coach Micah Rudosky and his boys have been here before.

They’ll have to defend their title and make their way to state without the prior team captain.

After winning the Western Slope title in 2010, Montezuma-Cortez High School graduated then senior captain Brian Grubbs. He now golfs for Saint Peters College in New Jersey.

The Panthers drove on and defended their region title in 2011.

Now, last year’s captain Chris Aiken golfs for Colorado Mesa University.

This year?

M-CHS returns three state qualifiers from its 2011 team that placed fourth at the 4A State Championships in Windsor.

With just one senior in state returner Keith Hawkins, the Panthers are heavily favored to win the competitive Western Slope again.

Hosting regionals at Conquistador Golf Course on Sept. 18, really helps, too.

“Having us hosting the regionals, we have a great shot at it,” said Rudosky, who is also the club professional at Conquistador Golf Course. “We have some good teams out there. Durango, Montrose, I mean, they’re the same ones that are tough year after year. But so are we. I think we’ll have a nice advantage being at our home course.”

Oh, and this season’s CHSAA State Championships is also in familiar territory — at Cobble Creek Golf Course in Montrose.

“We play these courses every year, so the kids know exactly what they’re getting in to,” said Rudosky, who is assisted by Todd Plewe. “We’re good enough. We just need to work hard throughout the season. Hopefully, we’re working on these guys to peak at the right time.”

However, first thing is first. Coach Rudosky has to finalize his top-five before teeing off the season Monday, Aug. 13, at the Grand Junction Tiger, Bookcliff Invitational. Sophomores Ryan Aiken, Tristen Shelby and Levi Gross, and junior Terrance Yarbrough are vying for varsity spots.

“We’re going to do our best to get these kids out to play like we did last year,” Rudosky said. “It sure helps them to get in those tournaments and get some experience. I’m looking at all these kids to step up. These kids will push each other.”

Along with Hawkins, state qualifiers Hayden Plewe (sophomore) and junior captain Jakob Rudosky make up the remaining lineup. The two Dolores High School students were busy this summer playing in tournaments. Jakob Rudosky feels he improved over the summer. He narrowly missed the cut for the Colorado Open by two strokes.

Jakob’s father is satisfied with the summer play of some of his team.

“That can only help us,” Micah Rudosky said. “It’s nice to get away and be fresh coming into the season. I don’t think they overdid it.”

Having a junior captain means that he’ll be back next season. Jakob Rudosky has embraced his role.

“I like knowing that I need to keep playing good, so they (teammates) keep respecting me,” he said. “Taking the place of (Chris) Aiken is pretty hard, but I’ll be fine.”

M-CHS will also golf two tournaments in Montrose next week on Aug. 15-16. The Panthers come home to host the M-CHS Invitational at Conquistador Golf Course on Aug. 22, before driving to Pagosa Springs Aug. 23.

Tournaments at Delta (Aug. 29), Montrose’s Cobble Creek Golf Course (Aug. 30) and Durango (Sept. 10-11) precede regionals.

“We have a lot of pressure, especially since it’s at our home course,” said Jakob Rudosky about the Panthers winning regionals again. “Everyone is probably saying, ‘Cortez, you know, you got to beat them at regionals.’ We got to come here and defend at our home course.”

Coach plans to take the Panthers to tournaments in New Mexico when the schedule permits to keep his team in shape. Playing out of state has no bearing on the team’s Colorado ranking.

“We’re close by getting in some competition. That’s what we need to do,” Micah Rudosky said.

The road to state starts next Monday.

bobbya@cortezjournal.com.

Keith Hawkins chips onto the green Tuesday during the Montezuma-Cortez High School golf team practice. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Keith Hawkins chips onto the green Tuesday during the Montezuma-Cortez High School golf team practice.

Levi Gross hits a shot, as Ryan Aiken watches during the Montezuma-Cortez High School golf practice. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Levi Gross hits a shot, as Ryan Aiken watches during the Montezuma-Cortez High School golf practice.