Aspen’s Walla takes second Jr. Classic title
Kristin Walla pulled out a two-stroke victory with a tourney-tying low round of 77 yesterday to capture her second consecutive championship in the 16th annual Colorado PGA Foundation Aspen Junior Golf Classic at the Aspen course.Entering the second and final day trailing two girls by two strokes, Walla used some clutch putts to get ahead and keep runners-up Sarah Ruybalid of Pueblo and Carla Scanniello of Boulder at a distance. Walla finished with a two-day, 36-hole score of 157, followed by Ruybalid and Scanniello with 159s.Ruybalid, who shared fourth place with Walla at the Class 4A girls high school championships last month, matched Walla’s 77 yesterday for the lowest girls score.Shannon Donegan of Englewood, the first-day leader after posting a 78 along with Scanniello, dropped to fourth place with an 85 on Wednesday.Meanwhile, Denver’s Mark Hubbard retained control of the boys 15- to 18-year-old division, following up a 1-over-par 72 Tuesday with a 75 yesterday to win by one stroke over Broomfield’s Pat Grady. Hubbard, who recently turned 15, becomes the youngest Junior Classic champion in its history, according to tournament director Alden Richards. Andy St. Louis of Arvada finished third, four strokes back.Littleton’s John Darling stayed out in front in the boys 12- to 14-year-old field with a round of 81 yesterday, edging Aspen’s own A.J. Morris by seven strokes. Andy Bingle of Breckenridge finished third.”Yesterday, I just lost concentration on the back nine,” said Walla, who shot an even par of the front nine Tuesday and then finished 9-over par. “I’ve never made so many doubles [bogeys] in my life.”Today, definitely putting was an improvement. I made some clutch ones.”Walla made two birdies Wednesday and seven bogeys.Apart from steady winds and occasional gusts, warm and sunny weather made for suitable scoring conditions. “The wind was a little frustrating, but not too bad,” said Walla. “You kind of had to wait it out at times, but it wasn’t out of control.”One of Walla’s bogeys came on the 18th hole when her approach shot found its way into a small creek guarding the front of the green. Walla maintained her composure and got up and down – chipping onto the green and then sinking an 8-foot putt.”I wasn’t really aware of where I stood,” she said. “I had a feeling I was ahead, but I didn’t know by how much. Whereas last year, I was very aware of what I had to do.”Walla plans to enter the Colorado Women’s Open next week at Green Valley Ranch in Denver, then a junior match-play tournament in two weeks’ time.A.J. Morris, the runner-up in the 12- to 14-year-old boys division, seemed pleased with his finish as he sat admiring a trophy that was almost as big as the young golfer.”Really happy,” he said as he sat at the bar of Shlomo’s restaurant at the golf course with his dad and some friends. “I just turned 12, and I played from the furthest tees I’ve ever played from out there. So, I’m really happy.”Morris, a rising Aspen Middle School seventh-grader, said he will enter his second Junior Classic next year.
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Bringing the game of golf to the community, and particularly making it accessible to young players, is a focus for Steve VanDyke as the director of golf at River Valley Ranch.