Where there’s a Will, there’s a way
Hazen survives 5-hole playoff to win Sentinel Junior tournament
His tee shots landed on the fairways. His chips landed on the greens. If his first putt didn’t fall, his second did.
Will Hazen’s shots were straight and safe, and in the face of tough competition and the increasing pressure of five sudden-death playoff holes, his approach prevailed to make him the champion of The Daily Sentinel Western Chapter Junior Championship golf tournament Tuesday.
Hazen, a 16-year-old from Aspen, outlasted Grand Junction’s Donny Kinnaman and Littleton’s Nick Leibold after the three finished the second and final round of the tourney tied at 149.
After three playoff holes at Tiara Rado Golf Course, Leibold was eliminated. Two holes later, after parring par-5 No. 13, Hazen was the survivor.
Hazen shot a 74 on Tuesday, one stroke better than the 75 he carded one day earlier at Bookcliff Country Club, putting him in a familiar yet unfamiliar place. He’s used to being a contender in youth golf tournaments. But different this time was the playoff and a chance to finish first.
“This is my first big win, you could say,” Hazen said. “All I’ve won before is local tournaments around Aspen.
“I felt some pressure. This is the first time I’ve put myself in position to win. I’ve always finished second, third, fourth. ... I just needed to break through, get that first one, and I’ve been looking to do that for a while.”
During the playoff holes, Hazen was methodical getting to the green and clutch on long putts, making nice runs to get an easy second putt for par.
No. 13 was a great example. Hazen hit driver to the middle of the fairway, hit a long approach shot to the bottleneck leading to the green, chipped within 12 feet, then barely missed his putt for birdie and tapped in for par.
“I just played my game and stuck to my routine,” Hazen said. “I was calm, stuck to my routine, and that allowed me to get those pars.”
Kinnaman nearly recovered from an errant tee shot on No. 13 to extend the playoff. He punched out from under a spruce tree, then landed a 160-yard approach shot about 25 feet from the pin. He said he misread his three-foot downhill putt for par, though, then lipped out on his putt for bogey.
Despite firing a 72 for the best score of the second round, Kinnaman said, “I actually didn’t play all that well today, but I hung in there.”
Tuesday’s score was encouraging, but Kinnaman’s summer has been frustrating, with scores in the high 70s that he believes should be par and better.
The problem, Kinnaman said, is he isn’t dialed in on his yardages, but he overcame it Tuesday by “just staying in the moment and knowing you have a chance, no matter what. Staying focused, no matter what.”
Zach Gomez of Westminster won the Boys 14-15 Division title with a two-day score of 151. He had to withstand a charge by Montrose’s Glen-Michael Mihavetz, who shot a 73 on Tuesday to finish second at 152.
Morgan Sahm of Centennial fired a 73 on Tuesday, the lowest round of the two days in the Girls Division, to run away with the championship.
Her 151 was eight strokes better than Carbondale’s Lauren Murphy and Denver’s Kacey Godwin, who tied for best score among girls ages 14 and 15. Murphy won a one-hole playoff.