PUEBLO — Hailey Schalk just needed some confidence boosters down the stretch. She got them when she scrambled for par on No. 13 and knocked down a 45-foot putt for birdie on 14.
For her second time in as many tries, she is the Class 3A state girls golf champion.
Unlike last year when she took and early lead and coasted on the second day, she had to fight in the second round to win. She shot a 4-under-par-67 On Tuesday at Elmwood Golf Course.
When pondering her two championships after her round, she couldn’t really decide if she’d rather make her push early like she did in 2017 or later like she did on Tuesday.
“I don’t think there’s a preference,” Schalk said. “I think both are nice. I think (making the move on the first day) is more relaxing than the other way which pushes me harder to play my best and win and actually have to fight to win.”
She was very much in a fight on the front nine. She entered the day trailing Colorado Academy’s Caroline Jordaan by one stroke. Jordaan bogeyed No. 2 to fall into a tie with Schalk.
Schalk then made birdie on No. 4 to take the lead for the first time all week. Jordaan responded with a birdie on No. 5 to pull even with Schalk.
But a double-bogey on No. 6 dropped Jordaan two shots back of the defending champion. Schalk wouldn’t surrender the lead the rest of the way.
“I think this year was great,” Holy Family coach Matt Schalk said. “It put her under the gun a little bit. It made her struggle at times and she had to fight through it. I think that’s going to help her game down the road.”
Schalk really started gaining confidence when she made birdie on 10 and then was forced to scramble for par on the next two holes.
Early on Monday she wasn’t recovering from the mistakes that she had been making and it cost her a chance leave Elmwood with a day one lead. It was evident after the turn that she had learned from her miscues.
“To have things go my way at the start a little bit was definitely helpful,” she said. “Just to fix my mistakes from yesterday. I think it was 13, just to be able to get up and down from there and same on 12, the hole before. It was a confidence booster.”
The defining moment of her day came on the 14th green. Her tee shot on the par 3 landed on the front of the green with the pin sitting closer to the back and over a little mound. About 45 feet out, Schalk buried the putt to take a four-stroke lead with four holes to go.
“That was definitely awesome,” she said. “That’s just another confidence booster with my putter. It was nice to have a long birdie putt drop.”
Jordaan’s hopes of a rally were erased on the 15th hole after she lost the ball on her second shot. She took a triple-bogey and would go on to shoot a 74 for the round.
After her performance last year and now following it up this year, the next two years will bring high expectations for the Tigers sophomore.
She can still become the first girl in state history to win four state golf titles but needs some adversity like she faced this year in order to strive for it.
“A tournament like this helps her,” Coach Schalk said. “Being behind on day one isn’t easy. You still have to play golf and it becomes a putting contest at times because you have some great players.”
Jefferson Academy had a strong team showing at the 3A tournament, finishing fourth overall. Colorado Academy won the team championship with Kent Denver finishing as the runner-up.
Freshman Aubri Braeklein provided a glimpse of hope for future tournaments as she finished the tournament 19-over par, putting her in sixth place for all individuals.
The Jaguars’ other qualifiers, Trinity Stuart and Lauren Alberts, will return next year as a junior and senior, respectively.