They went about it in totally different ways, but Gage Messingham of Arvada and Sofia Choi of Littleton arrived at the same outcome on Tuesday afternoon at The Fox Hill Club in Longmont.
Messingham (below in orange) prevailed in a sudden-death playoff to earn the boys title in the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado's 11-13 Junior Series Championship, while Choi lapped the field in claiming victory in the girls division.
Choi (left), 13, became the first player to win the girls 11-13 tournament twice. That's no small accomplishment considering the likes of Jennifer Kupcho -- who recently finished 21st in the U.S. Women's Open -- have claimed the title.
"It's pretty big," said Choi, who's part of the Hale Irwin Elite Player Program at CommonGround Golf Course. "I was just trying to play the best I could."
This time around, Choi birdied two of the last three holes on Tuesday to win by 18 strokes after rounds of 74-77 left her at 7-over-par 151. It marked her fourth Junior Golf Alliance victory of the season.
"I was just trying to shoot better than yesterday," said Choi, who recently placed 13th in her age division at the Optimist International Junior Golf Championships in Florida. "That was my goal." Though she didn't quite meet that standard, she finished with the only two rounds in the 70s in the girls field.
Placing second at 169 was Kaylee Chen of Highlands Ranch, the points leader coming into this event. And 9-year-old -- and that's no typo -- Hadley Ashton of Erie finished third at 171 after a Tuesday round which featured a pitch-in par on No. 10 and a 7-foot birdie at No. 12.
"It feels good" to place third against girls much older than herself, "but I wish I could have played better today," said Ashton, whose instructor is Colorado National Golf Club PGA general manager Matt Schalk. He's the father of Hailey Schalk, who won the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior by Transamerica as a 15-year-old this year.
For the record, at age 9, Ashton (below at left, with Choi and Chen) has already shot a 3-under-par 69 in a practice round for the IMG Academy Junior World Championships in San Diego, where she finished 28th in her age division.
On the boys side at Fox Hill, the 13-year-old Messingham rebounded from back-to-back double bogeys on the 15th and 16th holes on Tuesday to finish par-birdie in regulation, making a 15-foot putt on 18. Traejan Andrews of Windsor, the 2014 winner of the 10 & under title in this event, went birdie-par-birdie down the stretch to force a playoff. Both players went 77-76 to tie at 9-over-par 153.
In sudden death, with each player facing a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first hole, Messingham left his attempt about 2 feet short, while Andrews went 3 feet past. Then Andrews, the season-long points leader entering the week, lipped out his par putt, opening the door for Messingham to make his par for the victory.
"This means a lot to me," said Messingham, who finished second to Andrews in a 10 & under Junior Series Championship three years ago. "I didn't play too well, but I recovered well, made some putts and shot pretty good.
"This pretty much is the biggest thing I've won. My confidence was high. I just went into it thinking I could win."
The victory was the third of the season in Junior Golf Alliance events for Messingham, who recently competed at the Optimist International Junior. (Messingham is pictured at left with Andrews.)
Liam Wood, who won the 10 & under Junior Series title in 2015, finished third at 155 at Fox Hill after closing with a 79 on Tuesday.
The Junior Series Championships for other age divisions will take place later this week, with the 10 & under event set for Wednesday (Aug. 9) at Pinehurst Country Club's Pfluger 9, and the 14-18 tournament scheduled for Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 12-13) at Pelican Lakes in Windsor.
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by Gary Baines