It was a dark and gloomy Wednesday morning in Cortez.
But the Panthers golf play was bright and shiny at Conquistador Golf Course in the Montezuma-Cortez High School Invitational.
Junior captain Jakob Rudosky continued his strong play, as he shot under par most of the day. Hayden Plewe and Keith Hawkins played their best rounds of the season in the 13-school tournament.
Much of the Western Slope traveled to Southwest Colorado to grasp the 18 holes that will be played next month in regionals at Conquistador.
If Wednesdays M-CHS Invitational is any indication of a precursor to regionals, Panthers fans will certainly be satisfied.
Rudosky tied for the high medal score at 72, while Plewe and Hawkins each shot 73 and 76. The Panthers average team score was 221, as they, yet again, defended home course. Team average is determined by adding the top three individual scores.
However, winning the 2012 M-CHS Invitational is more significant than in recent years.
Im proud of the way these guys played today. A lot of times, its tough to win at home, Panthers coach Micah Rudosky said. They went right out there and handled it pretty nicely.
M-CHS bested a strong Aspen squad, who took second shooting 228. Jesse Beetham shot 72 for Aspen, while Robbie Bowles also recorded a score of 72 for Vail Christian to tie Jakob Rudosky atop the medal standings.
The competition was indeed greater in Cortez this year, and will be even tougher come regional play.
These kids are good. Well have quite a few more teams battling for that (state) spot, coach Rudosky said. Were going to have to play well. Theres some tough teams out there. Im just happy these kids can feel confident about the way they played and know that were good enough.
Despite the damp conditions from the light morning rain, weather had no ill effect on the Panthers. In fact, it was preferred.
I like playing in the rain. I like when the ground gets a little softer. It just make the hits more solid, Jakob Rudosky said. I hit the ball really well today. I didnt putt very good, but I hit it good and got it in the hole.
A strong 4A Western Slope opponent in Steamboat Springs made the trip and will return to regionals. The Sailors placed third as a team with a total of 230.
The team did good today. All of us played pretty good, Jakob Rudosky said. It was fun, because there were more teams here than there usually would be at this tournament. That is a confidence booster that we beat all of them that came here.
Levi Gross had a good outing with an 87, while Tristan Shelby shot 90 to round out the varsity scoring for M-CHS.
It was definitely a confidence building performance for the Panthers after a tough opening week for coach Rudoskys standards. That being said, theres still plenty of work to be done.
We have the potential to be better. I know all these guys can fire right in the 70s, Micah Rudosky said. I think we can go under par with our guys. These guys push themselves playing against each other. They dont like to lose. It keeps these kids motivated.
The Panthers continued their stellar play Thursday at Pagosa Springs Golf Course.
However, the weather continued to be bad so bad, it turned deadly with a lightning delay that eventually cancelled the tournament.
Jakob Rudosky was the only Panther who completed a round and unofficially shot 70. The Panthers were on pace to win the tournament before cancellation.
For that team, that hurts, but thats OK. Well keep going down the road, Micah Rudosky said. Having these kids believing in themselves and having the confidence, is what we need. That goes all the way to our JVs. Even theyre playing better. Were a few weeks a way and were already at regionals.
Now, M-CHS will hit the road again with two tournaments next week.
The Panthers play Wednesday at Devils Thumb Golf Club in Delta before heading south to Cobble Creek Golf Club in Montrose. Cobble Creek is where the state tournament will be held.
Well have a good idea of what well shoot at Cobble Creek. That will be a good test for us, coach Rudosky said.
M-CHS tees off next Wednesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. each day.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at email@example.com.