14-year-old Hadley Ashton continues to roll, becoming fifth Coloradan to win AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior; Denver’s Hunter Swanson runner-up among boys
By Gary Baines – 6/9/2022
It’s been quite a last eight months for Hadley Ashton of Erie in the competitive junior golf ranks in Colorado.
And, mind you, it’s all happened as a 14-year-old, which could bode something stellar in the years to come.
Since the beginning of October — and in Colorado alone — Ashton has:
— Won the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado Tour Championship — a major statewide tournament — on the girls side last fall.
— Captured the 4A girls state high school individual title — and helped Erie HS claim the team championship — just eight days ago. Since 2002, she’s just the third freshman to have earned a Colorado girls state high school individual title, joining Hailey Schalk (2017) and Emma Bryant (2018).
— Become the fifth Coloradan to win at the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior, which concluded on Thursday at Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster. In that distinction she joins Schalk (2017), Dillon Stewart (2018), Jack Hughes (2019) and Owen Cornmesser (2021). It should be noted there was no Irwin Colorado Junior held in 2020 due to Covid-19 safety concerns.
Thursday marked Ashton’s second AJGA victory — both coming in 2022 — but her first in an open-division tournament. She previously earned the title in the AJGA Junior All-Star Presented by Golf+ in Austin, Texas two months ago. That tournament was limited to players age 12-15, but this week’s tournament had competitors through age 18.
Ashton trailed much of the day on Thursday, but played her last six holes in 2 under par thanks to birdies on Nos. 13 and 16. That gave her a one-stroke victory over Natrada Pongsasin of Anaheim Hills, Calif., who bogeyed two of her last four holes, and Claire Chen of Fremont, Calif.
Ashton rebounded from a 77 on Wednesday to shoot a 1-under-par 71 on Thursday, leaving her at 1-over 217 overall. Pongsasin closed with a 70 and Chen with a 71.
Also posting top-10 finishes in the 36-player girls field were Timbre Shehee of Mead (sixth at 226) and Kaylee Chen of Parker (10th at 229).
Meanwhile, in the 60-player boys tournament, five Coloradans placed in the top 10, with University of Colorado-bound Hunter Swanson of Denver tying for second place, three strokes behind champion Aiden Krafft of Albuquerque.
It marked the second straight runner-up in Colorado-based AJGA events for Swanson, who likewise was second in the AJGA Junior Open in Montrose last summer. Swanson placed fifth in the 2021 Irwin Colorado Junior.
This year, Swanson went 68-69-70 — and made three straight birdies in the middle of his final round — to post a 9-under-par 207 total. That put him three back of Krafft, who carded scores of 65-69-70. Krafft last month won New Mexico’s 5A state high school title by 13 strokes after shooting a 12-under-par 60.
Joining Swanson in the top 10 among boys were Charlie Tucker of Castle Pines (fourth at 210), Gage Messingham of Arvada (sixth at 212), Tyler Long of Evergreen (seventh at 214) and Kyle Leydon of Commerce City (ninth at 217).
For all the scores from the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior, CLICK HERE.
About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was voted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2021. Email: ColoradoGolfJournal@mac.com)