Next week's girls state high school golf tournaments will usher in a new era in several respects.
Most notably, for the first time, Colorado will hold three state tourneys for girls golf, with the 3A classification being added to the existing 5A and 4A. From 1990 through 2000, there was just one girls state meet, then from 2001 through '16 there were two.
In addition, for the second straight year, no former individual state high school champions are in the fields for the state tourneys. That's saying something considering that from 2007 through '15, there had always been at least one former champ competing. Both of last year's state winners, Mary Weinstein (5A) and Erin Sargent (4A) are now playing college golf, at Regis University and Wyoming, respectively.
And this year, one of the top players in any of the three state tournament fields is a freshman. Hailey Schalk of Holy Family will be competing in the 3A meet at The Broadlands Golf Course, which happens to be less than a mile from her high school. At age 14 last year, Schalk won the girls division of one of the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado majors, the Colorado Junior Match Play. To get into next week's 3A state tournament, she won the 3A Region 3 title with a score of 70 at Highland Meadows Golf Course. She's ranked No. 245 in the world among female junior players, according to Junior Golf Scoreboard.
All three 36-hole girls state tournaments will take place Monday and Tuesday (May 22-23). The 5A meet is set for The Club at Rolling Hills in Golden, the 4A at Colorado National Golf Club in Erie (where Schalk's dad, Matt, is the PGA general manager; he's also Holy Family's coach), and the 3A at The Broadlands.
Each field will feature about 84 players, with both team and individual competition on tap. Schools with three or four golfers who qualified for state will play as a team, with their best three scores counting each day toward the team total.
Here are previews of each state tournament:
-- 5A at Rolling Hills: Two top-five finishers from the 2016 state tournament will be back, runner-up Amy Chitkoksoong of Grandview, the 2015 Colorado Junior Match Play girls champion, and University of Wyoming-bound Jordan Remley of Ralston Valley, who placed fifth at state in 2016.
Other likely contenders include Jaclyn Murray of Regis Jesuit, the 5A Central Regional co-champion who is looking for her third top-10 showing at state, and fellow 2016 top-10 finishers Julia Baroth of Denver East and Leigha Devine of Fossil Ridge. Alexis Chan of Rock Canyon placed third in 2015 and 13th last year.
Kelsey Webster of Fairview, the 5A Northern Regional champion, should also be in the mix. The junior, the JGAC's most improved girls player in 2016, recently won an AJGA tournament in Wisconsin.
Grandview will defend its 5A team title, with 2014 and '15 champ Regis Jesuit also a contender to add another victory.
-- 4A at Colorado National: Several of the top returning finishers from the 2016 4A tournament are now competing in the 3A ranks, but a couple of golfers who placed in the top 10 last year are back in the same classification. Sydney Prey of Golden tied for seventh at state in 2016, while Kellsey Sample of Palmer Ridge was 10th.
Loveland teammates Lauren Lehigh and Aili Bundy figure to be contenders. Lehigh finished ninth in 5A state last year and Bundy claimed the 2017 4A Region 4 title with a 74 at Murphy Creek. The lowest regional-winning score in 4A came from Pine Creek's Elly Carlson, who carded a 71 at the Country Club of Colorado.
Colorado Academy, the team champion in 4A in 2016, is now in the 3A ranks, but runner-up Cheyenne Mountain remains in 4A. Loveland, the 4A Region 4 champion who competed in 5A last year, could be tough to beat.
-- 3A at The Broadlands: Even though this classification is made up of the smallest schools, it boasts plenty of high-quality players. Besides Holy Family's Hailey Schalk, there's 2016 JGAC Junior Tour Championship winner Charlotte Hillary of Kent Denver, last year's 4A runner-up Caroline Jordaan of Colorado Academy and three other 4A top-10 finishers last year: Rifle teammates Elly Walters and Masi Smith, and Kent Denver's Marin Halvorsen.
Schalk, Jordaan and Smith won 2017 regional titles. But Sarah Hwang of St. Mary's set the standard in the regional tournaments -- regardless of classification -- with her 4-under-par 68 at Spring Valley Golf Club.
Colorado Academy, the 4A state champ last year, Holy Family and Kent Denver all should be in the mix for the 3A team title, along with Rifle.
For Monday tee times for the state tournaments, CLICK HERE.
Here are the team and individual champions from the recent regional state-qualifying tournaments:
5A Central Regional May 8 at (Denver) City Park GC -- Team: Cherry Creek +15; Individual: Jaclyn Murray, Regis, and Amisha Singh, Smoky Hill, 72.
5A Northern Regional May 8 at Aurora Hills GC -- Team: Fossil Ridge +31; Individual: Kelsey Webster, Fairview, 73.
5A Western Regional May 8 at Fox Hollow GC -- Team: Ralston Valley +25; Individual: Jordan Remley, Ralston Valley, 74.
5A Southern Regional May 8 at Meadow Hills GC -- Team: Grandview +37; Individual: Jenna Chun, Highlands Ranch, 76.
4A Region 1 May 8 at CC of Colorado -- Team: Pine Creek +47; Individual: Elly Carlson, Pine Creek, 71.
4A Region 2 May 9 at Eisenhower GC Silver Course -- Team: Palmer Ridge +73; Individual: Isabell Deak, Air Academy 78.
4A Region 3 May 11 at Indian Tree GC -- Team: Windsor +39; Individual: Jessica Zapf, Windsor, 77.
4A Region 4 May 5 at Murphy Creek GC -- Team: Loveland +19; Individual: Aili Bundy, Loveland, 74.
3A Region 1 May 9 at Hollydot -- Team: Pueblo County +65; Individual: Jole Carrica, Swink, 86.
3A Region 2 May 8 at Spring Valley GC -- Team: Kent Denver +23; Individual: Sarah Hwang, St. Mary's, 68.
3A Region 3 May 8 at Highlands Meadows GC -- Team: Holy Family +17; Individual: Hailey Schalk, Holy Family, 70.
3A Region 4 May 8 at Battlement Mesa GC -- Team: Colorado Academy +26; Individual: Caroline Jordaan, Colorado Academy, and Masi Smith, Rifle, 79.