Up and Coming

Charlie Tucker and Hadley Ashton break through to earn CGA Junior Player of the Year honors; 5 golfers land Grace Burke Award

By Gary Baines – 11/27/2023

Charlie Tucker of Castle Pines and Hadley Ashton of Erie have both won state high school individual and team titles. They’ve both committed to play golf at the NCAA Division I level. They’ve both been named “Future Famers” by the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. And they’ve both represented Colorado at the comparable variations of the Junior Americas Cup tournaments.

And now, they both can say they’re CGA Junior Players of the Year.

Tucker and Ashton finished atop the respective 2023 boys and girls CGA Junior Points Lists, which allocate points for performance in state, regional and national tournaments.

Hadley Ashton is ranked among the top 100 girls golfers in the world.

Here are some of the golf highlights of the year for Tucker and Ashton:

— CGA Boys Player of the Year: Charlie Tucker of Castle Pines and Rock Canyon High School — Tucker recently signed a National Letter of Intent to play his college golf at Colorado State — starting next fall — after a stellar 2023 season.

Tucker won the boys title at the CGA State Junior Championship, which features two rounds of stroke play followed by — potentially — five rounds of match play. On the final day at CommonGround Golf Course, he defeated two of the best boys golfers in the state — Kyle Leydon in the semifinals and Noah Richmond in the final — both by 1-up margins after winning the 18th hole.

Tucker’s other big victory in the state in 2023 came at the boys 5A state high school tournament at Collindale Golf Course. He made 15 birdies over the two rounds and finished 6 under par, chalking up a six-stroke victory. Also in his final high school tournament, Tucker led Rock Canyon to its first boys state golf team title.

Tucker will be playing his college golf at CSU beginning next fall.

Elsewhere in 2023, Tucker finished runner-up in the AJGA Imperial Junior Classic at Big Sky, where he closed with a 63. And he placed third in two Colorado junior majors — the Colorado Junior PGA and the Colorado PGA Junior Invitational — as well as in the AJGA Colorado Springs Junior presented by Centura Health. The 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier also represented Colorado at the Junior America’s Cup, where he finished 31st individually. In the wake of his strong year, Tucker was named the male Future Famer for 2023 by the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.

Tucker is the first new Boys Junior Player of the Year after current University of Colorado golfer Hunter Swanson earned such honors from the CGA and the former Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado in 2020, ’21 and ’22.

Ashton has verbally committed to play collegiately at Wisconsin.

— CGA Girls Player of the Year: Hadley Ashton of Erie and Erie High School — Like Tucker, Ashton is headed to a Division I college golf program. But as a junior in school, she can’t formally sign a letter of intent yet. But she’s verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin, where she’ll tee it up starting in the fall of 2025.

Ashton, now 16, continued her stellar junior career in 2023. Indeed, she’s ranked 94th in the world among female juniors by the AJGA. Limiting it to the Class of 2025, she’s 32nd. Junior Golf Scoreboard has Ashton 91st overall among female juniors. She’s finished in the top seven in her last four AJGA tournaments, with showings of fourth place, second, third and seventh.)

In Colorado, Ashton finished runner-up at the AJGA Colorado Junior at Walnut Creek, an event she won in 2022. Also as the defending champ — in 2022 she became just the third freshman since 2002 to claim a girls state high school title in Colorado — she finished second in the 2023 girls 4A state high school meet, where her Erie team claimed its second straight team championship.

Also, while representing Colorado at the Girls Junior Americas Cup, Ashton placed fifth individually in a field that featured many of the top players from the western U.S., Mexico and Canada. In addition, Ashton advanced to the match play round of 16 at the prestigious Women’s Western Junior. She made the round of 32 at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball (with Brynn Kort, falling in the match to junior phenoms Anna Davis and Kiara Romero). Ashton was named a Future Famer by the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame for her performances in 2022.

Kaylee Chen, now a golfer at New Mexico State, won the Girls Junior Player of the Year honors in both 2021 and ’22 — from the JGAC and the CGA, respectively.

— Meanwhile, the CGA also presented another significant honor. The Grace Burke Award is given to select female high school golfers who exhibit character, leadership and personal integrity through their actions in competing and participating in various golf programs. Here are the 2023 Burke Award winners:

* Maddy Bante of Englewood and St. Mary’s Academy, a two-time 3A state high school individual champion who will play for Notre Dame beginning in the fall of 2024.

* Ava Hickey of Boulder and Fairview High School

* Shae Maiorana of Highlands Ranch and Mountain Vista H.S., who has signed with the University of Northern Colorado women’s golf team.

* Leyni Stavola of Thornton and Prospect Ridge Academy

* Mollie Todd of Golden and Golden High School

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates