by Gary Baines
Jake Welch of Highlands Ranch is a golfer who happens to also be quite adept at wrestling. In fact, the Valor Christian senior-to-be finished third in the 170-pound weight class at the 4A state high school wrestling tournament earlier this year.
On Wednesday, Welch figuratively used his grappling skills to wrestle away the boys title in the Colorado Junior Amateur from Dillon Stewart of Fort Collins, who threw down the gauntlet in the final round by shooting a 5-under-par 31 on the front nine and a 6-under-par 66 overall on Wednesday at Todd Creek Golf Club in Thornton.
So what did Welch, playing four groups behind Stewart on Wednesday, do in response?
He just posted a career-best round -- for the second straight day -- by shooting a 66 of his own to overtake Stewart on the back nine and claim the boys championship.
On the girls side, Katie Berrian of Castle Rock did some nifty final-round work of her own to claim the trophy. The 16-year-old rebounded from a second-round 82 with an even-par 72 to emerge from a tightly-packed leaderboard to earn the victory.
In both the cases of Berrian and Welch, Wednesday marked their first major titles in Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado events. (The two champions are pictured.)
Welch, 17, hadn't broken 70 in his life until this week, but he went 68-66 in the final two rounds to post a 10-under-par 206 for the victory. And to make it even more impressive, Wednesday's 66 came despite being 2 over par after three holes of the final round. That means he went 8 under par for his last 15 holes.
Welch, the younger brother of 2015 Colorado Boys Junior Player of the Year Coby Welch, finished the day with nine birdies and three bogeys. And he birdied 16 and 18 after Stewart was finished to break a tie and account for the final margin of victory.
Stewart, winner of the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior last month, likewise went 68-66 the last two rounds at Todd Creek, checking in at 208 for second place. The future Oklahoma State golfer was 7 under par through 14 holes, but took a double bogey on No. 15 after hitting his second shot into the hazard in front of the green.
First-round leader TJ Shehee of Mead shared third place at 210 with Ryan Liao of Littleton as both fired 69s on Wednesday.
In the girls tournament, Berrian was two behind entering the final day. But after going 2 over par on the front nine, she played the back in a bogey-free 2 under par, making birdies on 14 and 16. The 16-year-old, who placed third in the 5A girls state high school tournament in May, finished with a 10-over-par 226 total after going 72-82-72.
Josie Baker of Sherman Oaks, Calif., a JGAC member who will play her college golf at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland starting in the fall, went 3 over par in four holes Wednesday starting on No. 10 to lose her grip on the lead. She birdied No. 18 to close with a 75, which left her a stroke back of Berrian at 227.
Marie Jordaan of Lakewood, who shared the lead with Baker and Meghan Vogt of Broomfield after two rounds, finished third at 229 after a final-round 77.
Check back later for reaction and additional photos and details from Todd Creek.