Levi Tichi played his final nine holes of golf at 5-under-par on Thursday at Conquistador Golf Course in Cortez. It wasn’t enough to beat Thayer Plewe on his home track.
The Montezuma-Cortez sophomore was steady all day en route to a 3-under 69 to win the Montezuma-Cortez Invitational by one shot ahead of Durango’s Tichi.
“Playing on home turf adds some pressure,” Plewe said. “Our tournament brings in a lot of tough competition, and it was no different this year. I was trying to post a good score. That’s all I had to focus on was my game and not letting anyone else get in my head. I did a good job of that.”
Plewe, who also won a day earlier in Utah at Monticello’s tournament, was 1 over through two holes after a bogey on No. 2, a 434-yard par-4. He got back to even par two holes later with a birdie on the 540-yard par-5. He made the turn at 1 under thanks to a birdie on No. 9, a 387-yard par-4. He would make it two birdies in a row with another on the par-5 10th, which played an even 500 yards. The par-5s would continue to be good to Plewe, as he made one more birdie on No. 15 before three consecutive pars to finish his round. He played the four par-5s at 3 under, while he had 13 pars on his scorecard.
Plewe was in a group with Tichi and Montrose’s Jordan Jennings, who placed third. While ball striking was key, Plewe said the mental aspect of the game Thursday was just as important.
“It was a great battle playing with Levi and Jordan. It’s a lot of fun to play with two really good players,” Plewe said. “We were all really tight at the beginning. When Levi came back, it put pressure on me, but it felt great to have that pressure. Fortunately, I was able to hold on and post a good score.”
One hole cost Tichi the win Thursday, but he bounced back in brilliant fashion. After a three-put bogey on No. 7, a 168-yard par-3, Tichi would record a triple bogey on No. 8, a 387-yard par-4. He would make the turn at 3 over.
“I was 1 under before that three-putt, so then I was even again,” Tichi said. “Then I had the triple. I just tried to be a little too aggressive and pulled out a driver when I shouldn’t have. I hit it under a tree and made some mistakes after that. Other than that, it was a pretty solid round.”
Solid was an understatement. Tichi made birdies on Nos. 10, 11, 15, 17 and 18 to come in with a 31 on the back-nine. Those added to his hot start with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 before his bogeys at Nos. 3 and 7 and the triple at No. 8.
“I was hitting it pretty good all day. Just that one hole kind of got me,” Tichi said. “I had to forget about it, and I knew I had to play pretty good, and I came through.
“I am figuring out how to come back from playing bad. This is the third or fourth tournament now this year where I have actually been 2 or 3 over and actually finished under par. Before, I have never been able to do that. When I play bad, it used to get worse and worse. It’s a huge thing for me this year to focus on the mental aspect and know how to come back. Part of the game is having bad holes. To come back like I did, that’s important.”
While Plewe and Tichi had individual success to celebrate Thursday, it was the strong all-around team play of Montrose that earned the three-time defending CHSAA Class 4A state champions the team title in Cortez. The Indians had a three-player score of 225 to beat Durango by nine shots. Montezuma-Cortez came in third at 239 in the eight-team tournament.
Jennings and Noah Richmond led Montrose, as they tied for third at 2-over 74. Jake Legg tied for fifth at 5-over 77 along with Durango’s Anthony Flint.
Flint started fast with an eagle on the opening par-5, but he had two bogeys and a double on his next three holes before a birdie at No. 7 followed by a double bogey on No. 8. He played the back at 2 over with one double bogey on 13.
Jacob Genualdi gave Durango its third team scorer. He shot an 86 to finish 14th. He had eight bogeys and one double bogey on the opening nine before he settled in with five pars around four bogeys on the back.
Justin Brunner of Montezuma-Cortez shot an 82 to finish alone in seventh. Robert Hebert gave the Panthers their third team scorer with an 88 to tie for 15th.
“(Brunner) played well, and I am really proud of him for putting in a lot of effort over the summer,” Panthers’ head coach Todd Plewe said. “(Hebert) had a personal-best round today, which really helped our team out. He’s a transfer from California, and he really worked hard all summer for us.
“Thayer hit the ball very well tee to green, especially off the tee. He put everything where he needed to put it.”
Also for Durango, which brought more players to the close-to-home tournament than the usual five-boy varsity squad, Cole Ulrich finished in 18th with a 92, Ben Simpson and Luke Carlson both were in a large group tied for 19th with a 93, AJ Folk tied for 24th with a 94, Nicholas Best was 28th with a 95 and Mason O’Bannon was 29th with a 96. Eli Holden would tie for 44th with a 105, Jacob Papi shot a 106 to finish 47th and Leland Longan shot 110 to tie for 50th.
Montezuma-Cortez saw Hunter Sparks tie for 30th with a 97. Kent Barnhurst and Nick Mahaffey tied for 37th after they each shot 100, and Kaden Huff was 43rd after he shot 103. The Panthers also had Airoughn VanGrandt was 54th with a 115, and Jacob Belt shot 118 to finish 56th.
The next event on the DHS schedule will be hosted by Grand Junction at Bookcliff Country Club at 11 a.m. Monday. Montezuma-Cortez will head to Pagosa Springs, as will Durango, to play next Wednesday.
Durango’s home tournaments will come Sept. 14 and 15 at Hillcrest Golf Club and Dalton Ranch Golf Club, respectively.