Aspen’s Crawford ready for first high school golf season

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesAspen's Clayton Crawford follows his putt during Monday's Soda Pop tournament at Glenwood Springs Golf Club.

ASPEN – Aspen High golf tryouts do not start until Monday, but freshman-to-be Clayton Crawford is already turning heads.

“His maturity and the way he handles himself is fabulous,” Skiers head coach Mary Woulfe gushed Thursday. “The kid’s just got the whole package. He’s got what it takes. If he puts it together, it’s really going to be exciting.”

The 14-year-old has lived up to the advance billing this summer. He closed with three straight birdies at Monday’s Soda Pop Tournament at Glenwood Springs Golf Club, posting a 3-under par round of 67 – seven shots better than the second-place finisher.

“I just played well, hit the ball well and made some putts,” Crawford said Thursday. “I had a lot of fun.”

The effort capped an impressive stretch that included a trip to Chicago to compete in the World Youth Team Challenge and a victory at the 53rd annual Daily Sentinel Western Chapter Junior Championship in Grand Junction in mid July.

After carding 75 in that tournament’s opening round at Bookcliff Country Club, Crawford made great strides when the action moved to Tiara Rado. There, he eagled the par-5 15th to finish with a 2-under 68 and clinch a victory in the 14-16 age group.

His round also included two birdies, two bogeys and 13 pars.

“I’ve been playing well,” said Crawford, who is 12th on the Colorado Junior Golf Association’s points list, which includes 14- to 18-year-olds. “I’m just trying to be as consistent as I can with striking and putting.

“I wasn’t even trying to shoot low [Monday]. I just wanted a solid round.”

He delivered.

He bogeyed his opening hole at The Hill but made the turn at even par, then mounted a late charge. His three-birdie closing stretch included a drive that reached the green on a par-4, then a second shot that found the putting surface on a par-5.

“Both of those rounds [in the 60s] were great,” Crawford said. “I’m happy with how I’m playing right now.”

Crawford will now take aim at securing a spot on the Aspen golf team, which boasts a roster overflowing with young talent. Leading the way is Jesse Beetham, who picked up two wins as a freshman in 2009.

The Skiers will take part in a two-day, 36-hole tryout Monday and Tuesday at the Aspen Golf Course to determine where players will be seeded. The season kicks off Thursday at Battlement Mesa Golf Course in Parachute.

Woulfe said she is excited to welcome Crawford into the fold – and excited about this fall’s possibilities.

“I see him fitting right in with the boys. Clayton gives us a lot more depth, with the three boys who competed at state as underclassmen plus three or four who are right on the heels of the other guys,” the coach said. “When good players are pushing other good players, we’ll be a better team.”

That is Crawford’s sole focus. He insists he has no designs on challenging Beetham for Aspen’s No. 1 position. He is not thinking about a potential state tournament appearance either.

And if the highly touted player is feeling the pressure of high expectations, he sure is not showing it.

“I’m just trying to give everything I have and see what I can do,” Crawford said. “High school golf is a team thing. I just want to help out as much as I can.”