By KEVIN THOMPSON
CIMARRON — To fire an even-par 72 to win a golf tournament on your home course is quite an accomplishment.
Mitch Chalkley started his round with a bogey, ended the front nine with a bogey, and finished his day with a bogey, but he still managed to balance his round at the Cimarron Golf Club with three birdies on his way to the individual title and lead his Bluejay squad to the team title on Tuesday at the Cimarron Invitational.
Playing in the lead group, Chalkley started his round with a three-putt bogey on the first hole, but he quickly recovered with a birdie on the 187-yard, par-3, second hole with a one-putt.
He birdied the par-four seventh hole to dip under par briefly, but he finished his front nine with a bogey five, carding an even-par 36.
He birdied the third hole his second time around the course to go one-under again and almost parred his way into the clubhouse before a darkness-influenced final hole cost him a stroke.
Still, a pretty good day, despite an early case of nerves about sandy greens and a home crowd.
"I didn't know what to do with the greens," he said of the fresh aeration holes. But what he did seemed to work with just that one three-putt for the day.
Knowing the course helped, he added. He hit double-digit fairways, and that's his game.
The meet started out with temperatures in the low 90s, a front moved threw and brought some wind, the sun came out, then the darkness arrived.
The gathering gloom may have affected his final putt, Chalkley said. Reading it in the near-darkness was pretty tough.
Chalkley beat out frequent playing partner Slade Lowen of Ingalls, who fired his best competitive round on the Cimarron course with a two-over 74.
Lowen, playing one group behind Chalkley's, said the course and conditions suited him just fine. Not only is it his home course, he also works there.
The freshly aerated greens actually helped him, he said. And the changing weather conditions didn't seem to daunt him.
"With the changing conditions today, I adapted to it," Lowen said. "I'm feeling great about my game right now."
Accuracy off the tees helped his round, he said, but the thing that helped most was his putting.
"It was on today for me. I had so much confidence," he said. "I had a couple chances for birdie putts, but I put them up there close enough to where I had good shots at pars."
After shooting most of the spring in the 80s, Lowen said his 74 was a huge confidence booster, especially with regionals coming up on the same Cimarron course.
To illustrate just how good the Chalkley-Lowen duo played, Michael Reece of Larned placed third with a 79, the only other player to break 80.
The win was Chalkley's third in five meets this season, which is pretty good considering his slight stature. He admits he's not long off the tee, but his accuracy has served him well thus far.
"I always think accuracy is more important than distance any day," he said. He hits the ball 30-50 yards farther off the tee this season, but he still isn't a big hitter. Hitting fairways and his short game have helped this season.
"I feel I'm hitting the ball better and I have fewer mistakes," Chalkley said.
Cimarron won the team title with a 320, seven strokes better than Stanton County and 21 shots better than South Gray, which recently won the Sublette Invitational.
For Bluejay coach Lance Walker, the team win sits well. The Jays have now won back-to-back titles (the other at Leoti last Friday), and he likes how his team is playing right now.
Coming into this meet, Walker knew his team had a good chance to win. He just had to wait to see which team of his would show up.
"We finally played, as a whole, as good as we could," he said. "We hadn't yet this year, but that (320) was our best score this year by seven."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.