by Gary Baines
It was a big day for Charlotte Hillary of Englewood.
It was a big week for Jackson Klutznick of Denver.
And it was a big year for Dillon Stewart of Fort Collins and Lauren Lehigh of Loveland.
On a day the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado wrapped up its fourth and final major of the season and celebrated the year with an awards banquet, the four aforementioned Coloradans were among the biggest winners.
In a sweep for golfers from Kent Denver School, Hillary and Klutznick (left) earned the girls and boys titles, respectively, at the JGAC Tour Championship that concluded on Sunday at Denver Country Club.
And Stewart and Lehigh landed the boys and girls JGAC Player of the Year awards for 2018, respectively.
For the Tour Championship winners, both accomplished something very notable on Sunday. Hillary won the event for the second time in the three years it's been played, and that's despite not being in the field in 2017. And Klutznick claimed a big title for the second time in a week as he captured the 3A boys state high school individual championship on Tuesday at Boulder Country Club. In addition, Sunday's victory came at Klutznick's home course, Denver Country Club.
And the fact that both Hillary and Klutznick attend Kent Denver -- Klutznick is a senior and Hillary a junior -- made the accompishments ever more satisfying.
"It's just incredible," Klutznick said. "I feel like the coaches and the staff at Kent bring out the best in all of us. I don't think we could do it without them. My coach at Kent (Bob Austin) came out today to support me. You don't get that at a lot of these places."
Hillary, who earlier this year made the match play round of 32 at the California Women's Amateur Championship, rallied from a three-stroke deficit going into Sunday to overtake first-round leader Caroline Jordaan of Lakewood. The 16-year-old Hillary shot an even-par 71 in round 2 to check in with a winning total of 3-over 145.
So even though the JGAC Tour Championship has been played only three times -- and that she missed a year -- Hillary is a two-time champion.
"It's going to be fun to have my name on (the trophy) twice," the 16-year-old said. "Normally when I play in Colorado it makes me more nervous than when I'm out of state for some reason. So this gives me a lot of confidence to play and win here finally. It's been a while. It really means a lot in that sense. And even though it was chilly, I had a great time."
Hillary (left) made three birdies on a cold Sunday, with two of them on the back nine coming from a mere 18 inches from the cup. She had gotten a new putter about a week ago, but it didn't cooperate during Saturday's round of 74, so she went back to her old one for Sunday.
"It wasn't great but it was a lot better," Hillary said of her putting. "I'm glad I went back."
Jordaan, who plans to play her college golf at the University of Denver, finished second at 147. After going 5 over par in her first eight holes on Sunday, she parred her final 10 holes of the tournament to post a final-round 76. It was Jordaan's second runner-up finish in a JGAC major this year.
Sofia Choi of Littleton took third place among the girls at 151 after a 76 of her own on Sunday.
Like Hillary, Klutznick (left) rallied for the boys title. His 1-over-par 72 on Sunday left him at even-par 142 overall, good for a one-stroke victory over his Kent Denver teammate Jeffrey Zhou, a 15-year-old from Greenwood Village who closed with a 71.
Klutznick carded three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey on Sunday. As he himself fully acknowledged, competing on your home course -- which he was doing this weekend -- brought certain advantages. That can happen when a person has played a course an estimated 500 times over the years, as Klutznick guesses he has at DCC.
"It was a big advantage," the 17-year-old said. "There's a few little things you can do that maybe not everyone knows about. A few holes, putts do weird things. There's just some sneaky stuff that happens. It was definitely beneficial to know that ahead of time.
"Even (par) is incredible. The condition it was in was insane. A combination of confidence and a little home-course advantage certainly didn't hurt."
So how does it feel to notch two significant victories in a week?
"I've practiced a ton in the past and haven't had an overwhelming amount of success," Klutznick said. "These are two of the biggest tournaments I play in over the course of a calendar year, and to have this happen is honestly incredible. It was an awesome experience."
Bo Wardynski of Parker finished third at 144 after a 72 on Sunday.
First-round leader Jacob Mason of Westminster was in good shape to earn the victory through 13 holes of Sunday's round, but he played his final five holes in 6 over par. That led to a 77 and a share of sixth place at 146.
The JGAC Players of the Year were all but set in stone prior to the Tour Championship. Stewart (left), who won the 5A state high school title on Tuesday, skipped the Tour Championship because he's competing in the prestigious Ping Invitational in Stillwater, Okla. He's coming off a summer in which he won the Junior America's Cup individually and helped Colorado to the team title for the first time ever -- along with teammates Cal McCoy, Davis Bryant and Walker Franklin.
"It's truly an honor to accept this award," Stewart said via video at the awards banquet. "... Junior America's Cup has been awesome and I'm glad we got a win this year -- both me individually and as a team. That's my favorite tournament of the year."
Meanwhile, Lehigh placed sixth Sunday at the JGAC Tour Championship.
"It feels great," Lehigh said of her POY honor. "It's always great to be considered the best player in the JGAC. You can't go wrong with that. I worked really hard this season so it was a big accomplishment. I'm really happy about it."
Here are the highlights of the season for the Players of the Year:
Lauren Lehigh of Loveland (below) -- One of 24 players (12 girls) worldwide to be named to the Transamerica Scholastic Junior All-America Team by the AJGA. The Loveland High School senior earned that honor by placing in the top five in an AJGA open or invitational, then based on the following criteria: standardized test scores, grade-point average, school leadership and community service. ... Won the girls division of the Colorado Junior Match Play, one of four JGAC majors. ... During the course of 2018 at JGAC events, won three times, placed second seven times and third three times. ... One of the runner-ups was in her title defense at the 4A state high school tournament. ... Finished third among girls at the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior. ... Helped lead Colorado to a fifth-place finish at the Girls Junior Americas Cup competition at Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen, where Lehigh tied for 14th place individually. ... Finished 13th nationally in Big I National Championship. ... Has verbally committed to play in college at the University of New Mexico. ... Has been a member of the Hale Irwin Player Program for three years.
Dillon Stewart of Fort Collins -- Won individual title in Junior America's Cup, which featured some of the top junior golfers from the western U.S., Canada and Mexico. ... Led Colorado to its first team title ever in the boys Junior America's Cup. ... Became the first Colorado boy to win the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior. ... As a senior, won the 5A state high school individual championship and led Fossil Ridge to its first team title in boys golf. ... Notched his second AJGA title of 2018 at the AJGA Junior at Big Sky in Montana. ... Shared medalist honors in qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur. ... Finished second at the Colorado Junior Amateur. ... Has verbally committed to play college golf at Oklahoma State.