CWGA

More Than Ever

Record 19 juniors selected for Hale Irwin Player Program at CommonGround Golf Course
by Gary Baines

The Hale Irwin Player Program has undergone several notable changes for 2018 — including a tweak of its name — and more junior golfers than ever have been selected to participate this year.

Designed to nurture the budding careers of promising junior golfers in the state, the Irwin Player Program grants those selected — all age 18 and under, of either gender — free unlimited use of the practice range and Kids Course at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora — and of the championship course on a space-available basis. Participants also receive help with their games on a variety of levels.

CommonGround, a public facility that opened in 2009, is owned and operated by the CGA, which adminsters the program that was launched in 2012.

The 2018 class features 11 boys and eight girls, with seven of the overall total being newcomers to the program.

Among the returnees is Lauren Lehigh of Loveland, the reigning 4A girls state high school champion who was one of four players that represented Colorado in the Girls Junior America’s Cup in 2017. Lehigh is entering her third year as an Irwin Player.

Two junior golfers selected will be in their sixth year with the program, dating back to its inception: Christian Agelopoulos and Roger Nakagawa, both of Denver. Three are set for their fourth year as an Irwin Player: Traejan Andrews of Windsor, Jack Castiglia of Lakewood and Cade Kilkenny of Centennial.

Hale Irwin Player Program candidates are evaluated based on their golf skill and their character, as exhibited through community service, academic performance and general demeanor.

Included as part of the program, players will have access to supervised practices and on-course coaching, will learn with the VISION54 curriculum, will participate in workshops on fitness and nutrition and will hear occasionally from speakers. Additionally, the Irwin Players are asked to volunteer with CGA Community and Wellness Programs and at JGAC 10 & under tournaments or Drive Chip & Putt competitions.

The Irwin Player Program has produced some of the best young players Colorado has had to offer in recent years. Included have been numerous golfers currently playing with — or having committed to — NCAA Division I golf programs: Jennifer Kupcho (Wake Forest), Hannah Wood (Oklahoma), Jake Staiano (Colorado State), Mary Weinstein (Denver), Spencer Painton (Colorado), Coby Welch (Northern Colorado), Ross Macdonald (Colorado), Calli Ringsby (Stanford), Delaney Elliott (Montana State) and 2016 3A state champion Oliver Jack (signed with Colorado). Kupcho currently stands No. 3 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings and finished second individually in the Women’s NCAA Championships and 21st in the U.S. Women’s Open in 2017.

The Irwin Player Program is named in honor of the most successful golfer with Colorado roots. A Boulder High School and University of Colorado graduate, Irwin has won five USGA championships: three U.S. Opens and two U.S. Senior Opens. Overall, he’s claimed 20 titles on the PGA Tour and a record 45 on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, and he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.

In Colorado, Irwin claimed the 1962 CGA Junior Match Play title, the 1963 state high school championship, three straight CGA Amateurs (1963, ’64 and ’65) and the CGA Match Play in 1966. He won the NCAA individual title in 1967 while competing for CU.

Steve Irwin, Hale’s son and one of the top amateur players in the state, serves on the CGA Board of Governors and was instrumental in the establishment of the Irwin Player Program. The visionary behind the program was another CGA Governor, former Cherry Hills Country Club head golf professional Clayton Cole.

Among the changes the Hale Irwin Player Program has undergone for this year are:

— Once selected, players will remain in the program until graduating from high school or electing to leave or being asked to leave due to behavior issues or lack of participation.

— The program now features three tiers of players based largely on the amount of time in the program.

— The name has changed after initially being known as the Hale Irwin Elite Player Program as many players are selected at a relatively young age and may not yet be at the elite level, though all are striving to be.

Here’s a rundown of all 19 junior players who have been selected to partcipate in the Hale Irwin Player Program for 2018:

Abigail Aeschleman of Highlands Ranch, a seventh-grader at Mountain Ridge Middle School — 2018 will mark her first year in the program. … She finished third in the 2017 Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado’s 11-13 Series girls points list, notching two tournament victories.

Christian Agelopoulos of Denver, a sophomore at Colorado Academy — 2018 will mark his sixth year in the program. … He finished 46th in the 2017 JGAC Tour boys points list.

Traejan Andrews of Windsor, an eighth-grader at Winograd K-8 in Greeley — 2018 will mark his fourth year in the program. … He finished a close second on the 2017 JGAC 11-13 Series boys points list, winning three tournaments.

Ty Andrews of Windsor, a fifth-grader at Winograd K-8 in Greeley — 2018 will mark his first year in the program. … He finished sixth on the 2017 JGAC 10 & Under Series boys points list, finishing as high as second in a tournament.

Chunya Bead Boonta of Aurora, a seventh-grader at Thunder Ridge Middle School — 2018 will mark her third year in the program. … She finished eighth in the 2017 JGAC 11-13 Series girls points list, winning one tournament.

Supawich Beam Boonta of Aurora, a sophomore at Eaglecrest High School — 2018 will mark his third year in the program. … He finished fourth on the 2017 JGAC 14-18 Series boys points list, finishing as high as second in a tournament.

Jack Castiglia of Lakewood, a senior at Lakewood High School — 2018 will mark his fourth year in the program. … He finished sixth on the 2017 JGAC Tour boys points list, winning one team tournament and placing as high as second individually.

Kaylee Chen of Highlands Ranch, an eighth-grader at Cresthill Middle School — 2018 will mark her first year in the program. … She finished first on the 2017 JGAC 11-13 Series girls points list, winning eight tournaments.

Caitlyn Chin of Greenwood Village, a fifth-grader at Challenge School — 2018 will mark her first year in the program. … She finished second on the 2017 JGAC 10 & Under Series girls points list, winning five tournaments.

Sofia Choi of Littleton, an eighth-grader at Falcon Bluffs Middle School — 2018 will mark her first year in the program. … She finished second on the 2017 JGAC 11-13 Series girls points list, earning five wins, including the 11-13 Junior Series Championship.

Merielle Gojo of Cherry Hills Village, a freshman at Cherry Creek High School — 2018 will mark her second year in the program. … She finished third on the JGAC 14-18 Series girls points list, winning one tournament.

Cade Kilkenny of Centennial, a junior at Cherry Creek High School — 2018 will mark his fourth year in the program. … He finished 95th on the 2017 JGAC Tour boys points list, finishing as high as fourth in a tournament.

Maxwell Lange of Golden, an eighth-grader at The Manning School — 2018 will mark his first year in the program. … He finished first on the 2017 JGAC 11-13 Series boys points list, winning two tournaments.

Lauren Lehigh of Loveland, a junior at Loveland High School — 2018 will mark her third year in the program. … She finished second on the 2017 JGAC Tour girls points list, winning eight tournaments, including the 4A state high school title.

Katelyn Lehigh of Loveland, an eighth-grader at Bill Reed Middle School — 2018 will mark her third year in the program. … She finished first on the 2017 JGAC 14-18 Series girls points list, winning four tournaments.

Roger Nakagawa of Denver, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School — 2018 will mark his sixth year in the program. .. He finished 90th on the 2017 JGAC Tour boys points list, placing as high as second in a tournament.

Kailer Rundiks of Denver, a senior at East High School in Denver — 2018 will mark his third year in the program. … He finished 20th on the 2017 JGAC Tour boys points list, finishing as high as fourth in a tournament.

Hunter Swanson of Denver, an eighth-grader at DSST Conservatory Green — 2018 will mark his first year in the program. … He finished third on the 2017 JGAC 11-13 Series boys points list, winning one tournament.

Jeffrey Zhou of Greenwood Village, a freshman at Kent Denver — 2018 will mark his second year in the program. … He finished 89th on the 2017 JGAC Tour boys points list, finishing second in a team event and as high as fourth individually.

2018-01-18T15:24:29+00:00 January 18th, 2018|