The Montezuma-Cortez High School golf team is ready to take the next step in the rebuilding process.
After losing four varsity players to graduation following the 2014 season, last year’s team was young and green.
However, opening the 2016 season with practice at Conquistador Golf Course on Monday morning, the Panthers welcomed four returning players and three promising new faces.
“We’re still fairly young,” said head coach Micah Rudosky. “We rode our really good teams for four or five years and now we’re just rebuilding. But I’m excited with our team.”
Rudosky’s son Cris, a junior at Dolores, returns to the squad after missing the cut for the Class 4A State Championships last year by just one stroke.
Forrest Gomez, Luke Gross and Jens Jorgensen are also back as key contributors, and junior Grayson Eytchison and freshmen Blake Keetch and Casen Allmon will make their debuts.
Last year, Cris Rudosky was the Panthers’ only representative at the Class 4A Western Regional Tournament.
“This year I see that changing,” said coach Rudosky. “We’re in Class 3A and I see us taking four players this year to regionals.”
After dropping from Class 4A, M-CHS moves into the Class 3A Intermountain League, joining Monte Vista, Alamosa and Pagosa Springs.
The change in conference gives the Panthers’ schedule a shake up. This year, to go along with a handful of familiar meets, the team will play in tournaments at each of the new league members’ home courses and in a newly scheduled tournament at Battlement Mesa Golf Club.
And things got started in a hurry, as the Panthers played in their first meet yesterday at Cedaredge and another today at Delta.
The early start in competition forced Rudosky and assistant coach Todd Plewe to work quickly to prepare their squad.
“We just started practice Monday,” Rudosky explained. “And we’re trying to get everything ready for us to travel with transportation and things. It’s amazing that we’re already into the season.”
In the three available practice days leading up to their first action, Rudosky had the Panthers focusing on their short game.
Usually, he said, players get a bucket of balls and go straight to the driving range. But this year, he’s installed a different approach.
“We’re going to chip and putt,” he said. “That’s an absolute must for when they come in. They’re going to the chipping green first, and then the putting green, and then they can finish off at the driving range.”
“We’re going to get our scoring down,” he continued. “Because we’re going to be a solid short-game team. That’s what we’re going to focus on and it’s going to help us.”