by Gary Baines
Peruse the list of winners for the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado's Junior Series Championship, and it's an impressive group.
There's Jennifer Kupcho, a three-time champ, who won the Women's NCAA Division I individual title in May.
There's Elizabeth Wang, who earlier this week advanced to the round of 16 at the U.S. Women's Amateur.
And there's Coby Welch, who just finished second in the CGA Amateur and who will be playing in next week's U.S. Amateur along with another Junior Series winner, AJ Ott.
The kids who won Junior Series Championships on Saturday can look at those names on the trophy and dream of having similar success in years to come.
"That's amazing how those players won this," said Hadley Ashton of Erie, who captured the girls 11-13 title on Saturday. "I think about that, but I try to stay in the moment and win as many as I can. I try to get better as I get older because the competition gets harder."
Among the six champions on Saturday -- two each in three age groups -- was one (Andre Dumonteil of Centennial, left) who became just the fifth player to win three Junior Series titles, regardless of age, joining Kupcho, Welch, Somin Lee and Ashleigh Wilson.
Another champ, Traejan Andrews of Windsor, became the 10th player to win two or more Junior Series Championships.
And another, Ashton, claimed the 11-13 Junior Series title despite being just 10 years old.
All told, the following six players earned championships:
14-18 tournament at Eaton County Club -- Andrews (boys), Jessica Mason of Westminster (girls).
11-13 tournament at Eaton CC -- Matai Naqica of Centennial (boys), Ashton (girls).
10 and under tournament at Heather Gardens Golf Course in Aurora -- Dumonteil (boys), Taylor Hale of Eagle (girls).
Here's the breakdown:
Ashton, Naqica Rule 11-13: Ashton won't turn 11 until next month, but you'd never know it by the way she's dominated the competition in the 11-13 Junior Series this year. Including Saturday, she's won 12 times in 14 tournaments.
At Eaton Country Club, Ashton shot back-to-back rounds of 78 for a 14-over-par 156 total. That gave her a four-stroke victory the year after she placed third in the 11-13 tournment as a nine-year-old.
"This means a lot," said Ashton, who will start sixth grade at Erie Middle School this coming week. "I've always wanted to win this one, especially when I started in the 10 and unders. This means a lot to do it as a 10 year old in the 11-13 Series."
In her own age division, Ashton (below) has fared very well this summer in major national and international tournaments, finishing fifth in the girls 9-10 division at the IMG Academy Junior World Championships, and 12th among 10-year-old girls at the U.S. Kids World Championship.
"It's definitely been a special summer," she said. "The thing I'm most proud of is finishing fifth at IMGs because it was really hard competition. And I'm also really proud of winning these (Junior Series) tournaments."
Placing second in the girls 11-13 competition on Saturday was Kaitlin Zingler of Lakewood, who finished four behind Ashton after a second-round 79.
In the boys 11-13 tournament, Naqica (pictured above with Ashton) started the day five shots out of the lead and wasn't helping his cause much through 13 holes as he stood 2 over par for the day. But then things changed in a hurry.
The 12-year-old put together a torrid stretch where he went 5 under par in four holes, going eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie. He holed a 70-yard shot with a wedge for his eagle on the par-5 14th, then sank birdie putts of 10, 3 and 3 feet on the next three holes.
"That's the first time I've ever had a stretch like that," Naqica said. "That gave me a lot of confidence."
Despite a bogey on his final hole, he shot a 2-under-par 69 -- the lowest round of the tournament -- and won by two with a 4-over-par 146 total.
Naqica wasn't expecting to have a chance to prevail on Saturday after trailing by five shots after the first round. But that back-nine stretch worked wonders.
"I was expecting to come in third or second today," he said after his fourth victory of the JGAC season.
And it was certainly a big-time improvement on how he fared last year in this event.
"I came in second-to-last last year at Fox Hill with a 92 and an 87, so this is great," he said.
Three players shared second place among the 11-13 boys on Saturday -- first-round leader Max Weisser of Denver, Andrew White of Centennial and Blake Sullivan fo Castle Pines.
White played his final seven holes in 5 under par, making four straight birdies starting on No. 14.
Andrews, Mason Prevail in 14-18: Andrews, a member of the Hale Irwin Player Program at CommonGround Golf Course, suffered a frustrating loss in last year's 11-13 Junior Series Championship as he three-putted the first playoff hole. But he gained some redemption on Saturday with his victory in the boys 14-18 tournament.
Andrews (pictured at left with Mason) shot a 1-over-par 72 on Saturday to post a 5-over 147 total, good for a three-stroke win, his second of the JGAC season.
"Of course it feels really good, for sure" after what happened in 2017, the 14-year-old said. "I just stayed more calm this year."
Helping the cause on Friday was driving the 303-yard 12th green and two-putting from 10 feet for birdie. He also two-putted for another birdie at the par-5 16th.
It's been a good week for Andrews, who won his first high school tournament by eight shots on Thursday as a freshman for Northridge.
"My friends were sending me screen shots of the (high school) rankings board," he noted. "I was like, 'Dude, it's one tournament.'"
As noted, Saturday marked Andrews second Junior Series victory, having won in the 10-and-under ranks in 2014.
"It's definitely special," he said of the accomplishment.
Maxwell Lange of Golden finished runner-up in the nine-player field, closing with a 74 for a 150 total.
On the girls side in 14-18, Mason went wire-to-wire for a seven-stroke victory.
The 14-year-old freshman-to-be at Holy Family High School posted a final-round 84 for a 164 total.
"It means a lot," Mason said after her third victory of the JGAC season. "I didn't play great, but it's still a good opportunity to win."
Mason has only been playing golf to any significant extent for two years, so to win the Junior Series title is no small feat. And it was her first time playing in this event, no less.
"This year was when I said, 'OK, let's start doing it.'" she said of tournament golf. "I've come a long way" in two years.
Finishing second Saturday was Amira Badruddin of Parker, who carded a second-round 83 for a 171 total.
3-Peat for Dumonteil, Title for Hale in 10 and Under: A year after Wilson became the first person to win three straight titles in the Junior Series 10 and under Championship, Dumonteil posted a three-peat of his own.
He won last year's title in this event by six strokes, and nearly matched that margin on Saturday at Heather Gardens. Dumonteil shot a 3-under-par 63, good for a five-shot win.
The 10-year-old made an eagle, four birdies (including three straight) and three bogeys on the day.
It was the ninth win of the JGAC season for Dumonteil.
Ross Miller of Highlands Ranch placed second at 68 after a three-birdie day.
In the girls 10 and under tournament, Hale (left) fired a 7-over-par 73 and recorded a one-stroke win. The 10-year-old made three birdies on Saturday.
It was Hale's third victory of 2018 in JGAC tournaments.
Livia Pett of Denver was runner-up at 74.
For scores from Junior Series Championships, click on the following: 11-13, 14-18, 10 & Under.