Griffin Barela of Lakewood added another memorable chapter to his storybook year of 2016 on Wednesday by winning the Colorado Junior Match Play, the third junior major of the year in the state.
The victory capped a trifecta of sorts for Barela, who earlier this year won the first-ever tournament conducted by the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado, then was the qualifying medalist in Colorado for the U.S. Junior Amateur.
"I feel I've been improving a lot the last couple of years, and this past winter I got to a point with my game where I could be consistently really solid, and I think that's showed in my results this year," said Barela, who plans to play golf at the University of Wisconsin starting in the fall of 2017.
On Wednesday at The Ridge at Castle Pines North, Barela won two down-to-the-wire matches, a 19-hole victory over Lakewood High School teammate Jack Castiglia in the semifinals and a 1-up win over David Leede of Greenwood Village in the title match.
And since Barela (left, in blue, and above) missed the previous two junior majors because of scheduling conflicts, he's won the only one he's entered.
"That's a good percentage," the 17-year-old said with a smile.
In a tight final in which both players held the lead -- in fact, Leede was 2 up through 7 -- the two were all square going into the 18th. After Leede's approach spun back off the green into a tough lie against the collar, Barela trickled his second, from 136 yards, to within 5 feet of the cup. And after Leede's chip finished 10 feet above the flag and he lipped out his par attempt, Barela nestled his birdie try to 18 inches from the cup and the par was conceded, giving the Lakewood resident the title.
"I was up against the collar in a little hole, but I could have hit a better chip shot," said Leede, who will attend Stanford University beginning this fall. "I thought I hit a really good (par) putt. I thought I made it, but just like a lot of other ones it slipped by on the edge (pictured left). That's the game of golf.
"Everyone wants it to come down to the last hole. It was a fun match, that's for sure. Griffin won it. I didn't lose it."
Barela, a senior-to-be at Lakewood High School, ended up even par in the title match, with three birdies and three bogeys.
And in his semifinal against Castiglia, it was likewise a nip-and-tuck affair.
"We're really good friends," Barela noted. "We play golf together a lot. It was a lot of fun this morning being able to compete against someone I'm really good friends with. And he pushed me to the limit. That's one of the toughest matches I've had in my life. He played really well and it took me 19 holes to beat him."
All in all, it was special for Barela to think that his name will be etched on the Junior Match Play trophy along with those of Hale Irwin (1962), Mike Reid (1971), Brandt Jobe (1984) and Mark Hubbard (2007).
"This means a lot," he said. "It's such a great course, such a great field. You look at the past champions that are on that trophy -- it's a great list of names, and to think I'm going to be part of that is pretty special."
As for Leede, in his Wednesday morning semifinal, he defeated top-seeded AJ Ott of Fort Collns 2 up.
"I'm actually pretty new to high-level junior golf," said Leede, a Valor Christian graduate who was likely playing his final Colorado-based junior tournament. "I didn't start getting good (to this point) until this past year. This is a good accomplishment for me, a good steppingstone, a good learning lesson. To know I can grind it out against the best players in match play is gratifying."
Colorado Junior Match Play
At The Ridge at Castle Pines North
David Leede, Greenwood Village, def. AJ Ott, Fort Collins, 2 up
Griffin Barela, Lakewood, def. Jack Castiglia, Lakewood, 19 holes
Griffin Barela, Lakewood, def. David Leede, Greenwood Village, 1 up
To see the boys match play bracket, CLICK HERE.