A Coloradan -- boy or girl -- has never won the title at the prestigious AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior by Transamerica, but if Tuesday's first round is any indication, the in-staters will be giving it a run this year in the third annual event.
After day 1 at Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster, a Colorado resident (Charlotte Hillary of Cherry Hills Village) leads the girls competition, and three of the top four golfers on the girls leaderboard are Coloradans.
And on the boys side, Griffin Barela of Lakewood held the lead for most of the day before he three-putted for bogey on his final hole and his playing partner, William Paysse of Temple, Texas, eagled No. 18 from 15 feet for a 6-under-par 66.
Barela, a recent Lakewood High School graduate who won an AJGA event in California early this spring, holds second place at 67 after a seven-birdie round. He made four birdie putts of longer than 15 feet.
"Obviously, I didn't want to bogey 18, but other than that I hit a lot of good shots and made some quality putts," said Barela, 18, who will play his college golf at the University of Wisconsin starting in the fall.
"It's right up there with my better rounds. It's probably the best putting round that I can think of. I hit a couple of loose shots on the back nine, but other than that, it's one of the best rounds I've played in a while."
Hillary (pictured at top), the girls winner of the JGAC Tour Championship last fall, shot the lowest tournament score of her life, making a 5-foot birdie on her final hole for a 3-under-par 69. It was her fifth birdie of the day.
"That's actually my best tournament round," said the 15-year-old from Kent Denver. "To have it at an AJGA is such an honor because these tournaments are so difficult and so rigorous. There's so much competition. To have it in Colorado and be leading after the first day makes you feel really good."
Hillary, who sank birdie putts of 25 and 40 feet in her first four holes, didn't make her first par of the tournament until No. 6. But after that she settled in to card two birdies and 11 pars the rest of the way.
"I really wanted to win this week," she said. "So to have this start makes me feel really good. It makes me want to go even further."
Not only is Hillary one of three Coloradans in the top four of the girls leaderboard, but all three are fairly young, with Hillary and Hailey Schalk of Erie being 15 and Caroline Jordaan of Denver being 16.
Schalk, winner of the girls 3A state high school title last month, and Jordaan matched 70s to share second place with Savannah Grewal of Canada.
"These tournaments, it's everyone from around the world, so there's definitely a lot of tough competition," said Schalk, who made four birdies and two bogeys on the day. "I like playing well in these."
Schalk and Jordaan tied for seventh place at last year's AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior.
"AJGAs are really competitive junior tournaments, so I always try to do my best," said Jordaan, winner of the North American Junior Amateur in January. "The fields are always stacked, so to have a good round feels good. It's definitely cool because I'm from here. I'm just hoping to have two more solid rounds."
In the boys tournament, Barela (left) is looking for his second AJGA victory in just over two months as he won the AJGA Junior at Greenhorn Creek in Angels Camp, Calif., on April 2.
"One of my goals coming into this week was to get in contention to win this event," said Barela, the boys winner of the Colorado Junior Match Play last summer. "This event is obviously very important and I'd love to win an AJGA in my home state. To be in contention after the first round is very satisfying."
Joining Paysse and Barela in posting sub-par rounds among the boys on Tuesday were Dillon Stewart of Fort Collins (70), Davis Bryant of Aurora (71), reigning boys 3A state high school champ Oliver Jack of Denver (71), Glen-Michael Mihavetz of Montrose (71), Calvin McCoy of Highlands Ranch (71) and Chase White of San Antonio (71).
That means six of the top eight players in the boys competition are Coloradans.
The 54-hole tournament will continue through Thursday.
2 Tourneys in 2 Days in 2 Different States for Daniel Pearson: Suffice it to say that Daniel Pearson (left) had reason to be worn out by the time Tuesday's round ended. The golfer from Longmont competed in U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying on Monday, which in his case meant he played 36 holes in Newport Beach, Calif. And though he didn't earn a U.S. Open berth, he shot a very respectable 75-70--145 to finish 39th out of 103 players.
But that was only the beginning of Pearson's odyssey. With him competing in the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior by Transamerica -- beginning with an 11:13 a.m. tee time in Westminster on Tuesday -- it was a hectic night.
He traveled to Los Angeles International Airport, but his flight was delayed 90 minutes, then took "forever" to actually take off. And by the time he arrived at his house on Tuesday, it was 3:30 a.m.
After sleeping for about four hours, he woke up and started getting ready for Tuesday's round at Walnut Creek.
"I'm pretty tired," he said after shooting a 77. "But it was fun to play in Sectionals. It was definitely a challenge and good experience. I'm pretty worn out, though."
For AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior by Transamerica scores, CLICK HERE.