Long Time Coming

Hale Irwin Colorado Junior, the first of 3 AJGA tourneys in Colorado this year, draws strong field

By Gary Baines – 6/13/2021

It’s been more than two years since the last time an AJGA tournament was played in Colorado. But, barring any further changes to the schedule, there will be three held in the Centennial State within the next two months.

After Covid-19 safety concerns nixed plans for AJGA events in Colorado in 2020, next week’s sixth Hale Irwin Colorado Junior marks the return of the AJGA circuit to the state. The 54-hole Irwin event is set for Tuesday through Thursday at Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster, with a qualifier planned for Sunday and a junior-am for Monday.

Then there’s a late addition to the local AJGA lineup as the Colorado Springs Junior by Centura Health is planned for July 26-29 at The Club at Flying Horse. And there will be the debut of the AJGA Junior Open at The Bridges, presented by the City of Montrose, Aug. 2-5. Meanwhile, earlier this year the return of the AJGA Aspen Junior All-Star tournament was pushed back to 2022.

AJGA events are considered among the most prestigious tournaments in which elite-level junior players compete as the local versions feature top competition not only from Colorado but regionally and beyond.

For instance, in the case of next week’s AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior, even before the qualifier takes place, 14 states, plus China, are represented in the boys field. On the girls side, there are players from seven states, plus Canada.

Among those teeing it up in the boys tournament are winners of major Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado and/or state high school titles: Jordan Jennings of Montrose (2020 4A state), Wes Erling of Colorado Springs (2020 JGAC Tour Championship), Matthew Wilkinson of Centennial (2020 Colorado Junior Match Play), Lucas Schulte of Lone Tree (2020 5A state), Will Kates (2019 5A state). And Hunter Swanson of Denver was the JGAC’s 2020 Boys Player of the Year.

On the girls side, in the field are Emma Bryant of Aurora (2021 JGAC Tour Championship, 2018 5A state and 2017 Colorado Junior Match Play), Kaylee Chen of Parker (2019 Colorado Junior Amateur) and Morgan Miller of Cedar Park, Texas (2021 Colorado Junior Match Play). Also competing are 2020 JGAC Girls Player of the Year Aubri Braecklein of Northglenn and Hadley Ashton of Erie, who finished third in her age/gender division of the 2020 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship.

Several of those players are coming off big weeks, with Wilkinson and Swanson making the quarterfinals of the 121st CGA Match Play and Chen in the quarters of the 106th CGA Women’s Match Play.

Three Coloradans have claimed titles at the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior: Jack Hughes of Snowmass Village (2019), Dillon Stewart of Fort Collins (2018) and Hailey Schalk of Erie (2017).

It will be the fourth time the Irwin AJGA event has been hosted by Walnut Creek.

For Tuesday’s tee times for the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior, CLICK HERE.