Davis Bryant, Hailey Schalk repeat as champions at Colorado Junior PGA; Cal McCoy, Caroline Jordaan also qualify for national Junior PGA Championship
by Gary Baines
The 2018 major championship season for the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado started off a lot like how the 2017 year ended. And, for that matter, how the 2017 season began.
For the second straight year at the Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Golf Club, the titles in the Colorado Junior PGA Championship went to Davis Bryant of Aurora in the boys ranks and to Hailey Schalk of Erie in the girls division.
Bryant became the first boys player to win consecutive Colorado Junior PGAs since Steven Kupcho in 2010 and ’11. And Schalk became the first girl to repeat since Steven’s sister, Jennifer Kupcho, did the honors in 2012 and ’13. Jennifer Kupcho, of course, recently won the women’s NCAA individual title.
Overall, Bryant is the fourth boy to win the Coloado Junior PGA twice in a row, while Schalk is the seventh girl. (The two champions are pictured at left.)
“To do this two years in a row is awesome and amazing. It’s a great feeling,” said Bryant, who was likely competing in his final JGAC major as he has conflicts with the remaining tournaments in 2018. “To play as consistently as I have and to win by four shots … I was real motivated after last week when I got second place to Dillon (Stewart) at the AJGA. That motivated me to come here and take care of business, which I was able to do.”
Said Schalk: “It’s really cool to win two years in a row because that doesn’t happen very often. For me to do what Jennifer Kupcho did is really special.”
Even more notably, both Bryant and Schalk have won the last four JGAC majors in which they’ve competed.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Bryant (left). “It’s like a grand slam in a way. To win four (straight) that I’ve played in … it hasn’t really sunk in yet. But I’m really happy I was able to get it done.”
Schalk likewise relishes that feat.
“I’m definitely proud of that accomplishment,” said the junior-to-be at Holy Family High School. “It’s cool to be able to win my last four because that just doesn’t really happen (often).”
Adding even more to the significance of Bryant and Schalk’s victories on Wednesday, their dads — Matt Bryant (Green Valley Ranch Golf Club) and Matt Schalk (Colorado National Golf Club) — are Colorado PGA general managers, making their kids repeating in the Colorado Junior PGA all the more appropriate.
On Wednesday, after taking an eight-stroke lead into the final round, Davis Bryant prevailed by four shots. And after leading by three after two rounds, Schalk emerged with a six-stroke victory.
In both cases, it continued an early-season trend of relative routs in the top junior championships in Colorado. Last week in the AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior, the boys margin of victory was six and the girls seven. And at last month’s girls state high school tournaments, the margins were seven (5A), six (3A) and, in the lone exception, one (4A).
On a windy final day at Eisenhower GC, Bryant shot a 1-over-par 73 to post a 6-under 210 total. The 18-year-old, who will play his college golf at Colorado State University beginning in the fall, made two birdies and three bogeys on Wednesday.
“Today was the hardest round I’ve played in a while,” Bryant said. “Knowing you have an eight-shot lead, and the last thing you want to do is blow the lead. It crept in my head a little last night.
“But I love this golf course. I play real well here. I understand the greens and know where to miss it and where not to miss it. I did a really good job of that over the three days.”
Cal McCoy of Highlands Ranch, a University of Denver-bound golfer, crept within three strokes of Bryant with three holes left on Wednesday and checked in at 214 overall after closing with a 69.
“I wanted to catch Davis, but I knew it was going to be very hard to do, especially with how well he can play,” McCoy said. “I just wanted to put some pressure on him and make him think a little more over some short putts and some drives. If I caught up to him, great. If I didn’t, I knew second is, I guess, good enough. Even though you want to win, it’s tough when you’re eight back with one round left.”
Jack Castiglia of Lakewood, who recently advanced to the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying, placed third at 221 after a final-round 73.
In the girls division, the 16-year-old Schalk (left) shot her second consecutive 77 to finish at 228. The two-time 3A state high school champion made 13 pars and five bogeys on Wednesday.
Caroline Jordaan of Lakewood, the 2015 Colorado Junior PGA Champion, was runner-up at 234 as she sank a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to edge out 2017 4A state high school champ Lauren Lehigh of Loveland. Jordaan posted a final-round 80 for a 234 total, while Lehigh placed third at 235 after a 79.
“I definitely tried to come in first, but I struggled on the front nine a little bit,” said Jordaan, who will play golf at DU starting in 2019. “I tried to keep it together on the back to get in the top two.”
In addition to the Colorado Junior PGA Championship titles being on the line on Wednesday, the top two boys finishers and the top two girls landed spots in the national Junior PGA Championship that will be held in Kentucky. The national girls tournament is set for July 9-12 at Kearney Hill Golf Links in Lexington and the boys for July 31-Aug. 3 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville. Valhalla has hosted three PGA Championships and a Ryder Cup.
Bryant and McCoy gained the boys berths and Schalk and Jordaan the girls. Bryant finished 14th in the 2017 national Junior PGA, while McCoy and Schalk missed the cut in their respecive tournaments. Jordaan missed the cut on her first trip to the national Junior PGA, in 2015.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I’m happy I ended up getting a spot because I didn’t play my best golf. I’m happy it worked out in the end.”
Said McCoy: “It feels pretty good” to go to a national championship. “Whenever you’re playing for a bigger tournament, there’s always added pressure. This year I want to do a little better, but the first stage was to get into it, and I’m feeling pretty good.”
Another Coloradan who has landed a spot in the national Junior PGA is Charlotte Hillary of Cherry Hills Village, who’s competing this week in the AJGA Rolex Girls Junior Championship in Park City, Utah.
(Below is a photo of the new clubhouse at Eisenhower Golf Club.)