Aspen teammates tie for 16th at junior golf event
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Ryan Smith is kicking himself.
After firing an efficient 1-over-par 72 in Wednesday’s Round 2, the Aspen High senior found himself in a tie for third at the Aspen Junior Golf Classic, a 54-hole tournament featuring some of country’s top junior golfers.
He had earned a spot in the final foursome Thursday at Aspen Golf Club. Smith was just five shots behind leader Corbin Kasten of Southlake, Texas.
“A lot of people at the course, they were like, ‘We’re proud of you. You can go do this,'” the Snowmass Village resident said.
“Maybe I got a little too far ahead of myself.”
Things unraveled quickly for Smith in the final round. He hit an errant shot off the tee and wound up with double bogey – the first of his three on the afternoon. He wound up carding 80, dropping him into a tie for 16th with Aspen High teammate Jesse Beetham (79-75-74).
Niwot’s Cole Nygren, tied with Smith after two rounds, fired a 1-under 70 Thursday to force a sudden-death playoff with Kolton Lapa of Mesa, Ariz. Nygren’s par on the extra hole helped him capture his first American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) title. Walter Huddy of Studio City, Calif., wound up third, while Kasten dropped into a tie for fourth after a final-round 79.
A first-time winner emerged on the girls’ side, too, though the race was nowhere near as close. Alexandra Wong of San Francisco followed up her 69 on Wednesday – a round that included two eagles – with a 73, finishing with a three-day total of 215, good for an eight-shot victory over Mikayla Harmon of Gilbert, Ariz. Lone Tree’s Patricia Lee, 2010’s Aspen Junior Golf Classic winner, finished in a tie for third, 13 strokes behind Wong.
Aspen’s Clayton Crawford (81-77-76), 10th in this event in 2009, finished in a tie for 37th, while Skiers teammate August So (84-79-89) wound up 66th in a field of 70 male golfers.
All told, 96 players representing 15 states and four countries took part in the tournament.
Smith produced four birdies and shook off double bogeys at Nos. 5 and 13 during an opening-round 76, setting the pace for the local contingent in his first AJGA event.
“It gave me some confidence. I felt good about where I was,” Smith said. “I was hitting some really good irons and had a lot of chances for birdies. They just weren’t dropping.”
He put his short-game prowess and local knowledge to good use during a stellar second round. Smith hit just nine greens in regulation, yet carded just two bogeys and one double bogey during a round of 72, which vaulted him up the leaderboard. He sank a 30-foot, double breaker for birdie at No. 17, then followed that up with an accurate 70-yard wedge shot on No. 18.
“I had about 10 feet straight downhill, then I just put another good stroke on it,” Smith said. “I double bogeyed the 15th hole, but I felt like that birdie-birdie finish carried over to the next day. I felt really good about how I finished and about the final round.
“On the first hole [Thursday], I had a good par and hit a good drive. Then, I just didn’t have it.”
Smith three-putted No. 2 on Thursday, settling for bogey, then ran into serious trouble at the fourth.
“I hit 4-iron off the tee and hooked it into the hazard. I took a couple whacks at it until I got out of it, then chipped onto the green and two-putted for a double,” Smith said. “I was disappointed. I couldn’t believe I could make a double and knew I had to come back.”
He did, birdying the par-4 fourth. But a string of “a couple bad shots and a couple bad holes” ultimately cost him a chance to hang with the leaders.
“I’m definitely taking it as a learning experience,” Smith said. “I got two or three [AJGA] exemptions, so I’m pretty happy. … I feel pretty confident with my game.”
Beetham could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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