Seiple, Ko capture Aspen Junior Golf Classic titles |

Seiple, Ko capture Aspen Junior Golf Classic titles

Contributed photoCastle Rock's Josh Seiple and Naomi Ko of Victoria, British Columbia, pose Thursday after winning the Aspen Junior Golf Classic.

ASPEN – Naomi Ko finished off her wire-to-victory at the Aspen Junior Golf Classic on Thursday. Jake Leffew’s bid came up well short, however.

The Vero Beach, Fla., teenager, who led the field after rounds of 69 and 74 on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, imploded Thursday. He bogeyed his first four holes, recorded a triple bogey at the par-4 5th and wound up carding a 15-over-par 86. As a result, he plummeted from first into a tie for 23rd.

Josh Seiple took full advantage. The Castle Rock resident, who vaulted from 12th to third after a second-round 69, fired a 73 Thursday to finish with a 54-hole score of 5-over 218 and earn a spot in a two-person playoff. He then topped Longwood, Fla.’s Cristian DiMarco on the first playoff hole to clinch the title.

Ko hardly had to sweat all week. The Victoria, British Columbia, product led by six strokes after a Day 1 69, four after Wednesday and won by three despite carding a 79 Thursday.

Brittany Fan of Pearl City, Hawaii, and Kathleen Scavo of Benicia, Calif., shared second place with three-day totals of 228.

By virtue of her victory, Ko gained exemptions into every American Junior Golf Association event for the next two seasons.

“It means a lot,” she said after hoisting the winner’s trophy. “Now that I have a full exemption, I can pick and choose which tournaments I want to play in. It makes my schedule much more relaxed.”

Seiple secured his spot in the playoff with a third round that featured three birdies. DiMarco, meanwhile, birdied three consecutive holes on the front nine, then buried an eagle putt at the par-5 15th en route to a 69 – the low round of the day.

DiMarco, son of PGA Tour veteran Chris DiMarco, slipped up on the first playoff hole, however. Seiple sealed the victory with a three-foot par – after a lucky break.

“I was nervous,” Seiple said. “I thought I hit (my second shot) in the water, but I actually hit it underneath a tree.”

Michael Hodson (72-72-75) of Amarillo, Tex., finished third with a three-day total of 219, just one stroke behind Seiple and DiMarco.

Snowmass Village’s Ryan Smith (78-74-74), the top local finisher, wound up tied for 14th.

Par-71, 7,046 yards

14t. Ryan Smith, 78-74-74, 226

25. Jesse Beetham, 76-75-79, 230

45. Dylan Rakowski, 77-79-81, 237

55t. Clayton Crawford, 78-80-83, 241

71. August So, 84-90-91, 265

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