WESTMINSTER - Walker Franklin settled in on Thursday at the Walnut Creek Golf Preserve, the third round of his first American Junior Golf Association Hale Irwin Colorado Junior feeling more and more like any other tournament he's been a part of.
Plenty of shots played true for the rising junior at Prospect Ridge Academy over the back nine - the final 12 holes, really - in the state's only AJGA event, and Frankin's level-headedness helped him walk away with a tie for fifth place with a 54-hole score of even-par 216.
Coming in on the back nine Thursday with a 2-under 34, Franklin matched in every way his playing partners, a homegrown trio that included Fort Collins' Dillon Stewart (a Fossil Ridge rising senior) and Aurora's Davis Bryant (a 2018 Eaglecrest graduate).
A couple possible birdie makes down the stretch that didn't go down were the only thing that kept him from retaining his top-three position, but Franklin was overall pleased with the way he introduced himself to the AJGA circuit.
"Having 69 putts after two days and only shooting 1-under total, that's pretty disappointing with the fact I hit 33 greens," said Franklin, who finished second in the Class 4A state tournament this past October and was the BoCoPreps.com 2017 boys player of the year. "I was hitting fantastic but couldn't get a putt to drop.
"Today, I had a few putts drop but still left a couple out there. Being in the top five, you're fully exempt for any (AJGA) tournament outside of invites ... it's good, but I'd like to finish better next time."
Seeking a hot start as he had in Wednesday's second round - when he eagled the par-4 first hole at the course and made par over the next 16 holes - Franklin instead struggled with two bogeys and a double-bogey through six holes.
But he was able to breathe again after the eighth hole, which played 394 yards. The birdie there would set him on the right path, a stretch where more often than not he was able to string three good shots together.
"I didn't really like the way I started, just kept hitting everything high and right, but I figured it out on the back nine, shot 2-under, so I'm pleased with it," Franklin said. "I like playing with people I know, and it made it more fun and more relaxing."
Several other area golfers were part of the boy's field, while Holy Family's Hailey Schalk was attempting to defend her Hale Irwin Colorado Junior title of a year ago at the exact same course.
Mead High student TJ Shehee finished 23rd with a 54-hole score of 228 (+12); Jefferson Academy's Jacob Mason shot a 229 to finish tied for 24th; and Billy Howenstein, who attends Dawson School, shot 72 on Thursday to salvage 46th place.
For Schalk, who shot a 54-hole total of 212 last year to win the prestigious event by one stroke, a second-round score of 80 on Wednesday derailed any chances of her repeating.
Like Franklin, Schalk struggled out of the gates on Thursday with four bogeys through seven holes, but the two-time defending Class 3A state champion hung in with pars the rest of the way to card a 76 in her final round. That was good enough, however, to keep her in the top 10.
Stewart won the boy's tournament with an overall score of 10-under 206. The girl's winner, shooting 1-under 215, was Savannah Grewel of Mississauga, Ontario.