Erie freshman Hadley Ashton may have just begun her high school golf career, but she’s already risen to the top of the Class 4A ranks.
After playing in just three of Erie’s nine team tournaments, having missed the other six for national playing pursuits, Ashton’s scoring average of 71.7 strokes ranks her at No. 1 in the entire classification as the returning state champion, Holy Family’s Jessica Mason, sits at third through four rounds (72.8) behind Discovery Canyon’s Emily Cheng (72.3).
Head coach Brandon Bird couldn’t have asked for a better leader for his incredibly young team of mostly underclassmen.
“Just from a talent-wise piece, we’ve never really had a golfer like her until this year in terms of potential and how good she already is,” Bird said. “Even when she has a bad day, for her it’s a bad day, but she’s so consistent that her scores don’t drop a whole lot. I think that sets her apart and I don’t think you necessarily get that consistency from a 14-year-old.”
Ashton has been making waves on the national golf circuit for eight years now as she often plays up in the various tournaments’ age groups. She finally hit her acme, the goal she’s been working toward since she was 12, when she won her first American Junior Golf Association All-Star Tournament title in Austin at the beginning of April, shooting 4-over par.
But even through extensive experience on the national scale, she believes she’s grown her game even more by joining her high school squad. Her secret to success so far in her career has boiled down to self-confidence and focusing solely on her own style of play, while leaning on her “clutch” short game. Now, she’s working to hone her distance shots.
The team atmosphere that Bird has created has only engendered more success, even as she has had to adjust to the team style and away from more individualized play.
“He’s really great at mental coaching and even for me, I’ve learned so much from him already, just staying more calm and relaxed,” Ashton said. “I’ve learned way more than I thought I would. We have a really good team environment.”
Ashton is far from the only talented Tiger this year, as Bird has welcomed a couple of top sophomores in Logan Hale and Kait Park, who are ranked eighth (75.6 scoring average) and 28th (86.2) in 4A, respectively.
With a month left until regionals, he already believes the Tigers will be able to easily send four ladies to the state tournament. The fourth state-qualifying spot will come down to the final scoring average between sophomores Tatem Coapland and Marin Cantwell as well as junior Sydney O’Connor.
Bird believes the Tigers will be a bit of a dark horse this year and that the competition for the 4A team title will come down to his girls, defending state champion Discovery Canyon, 2021 state runner-up Windsor and Mullen.
“Hadley absolutely has a chance to win it all individually,” Bird said. “I think, in some ways, we’re kind of flying under the radar team-wise because we’ve only had two tournaments with our top three or four girls.
“In one tournament, we beat Loveland, the defending 5A state champs. The other, we played our worst round of the year and still finished second in that (Northern Colorado) league tournament. I crunched the numbers and I think we have a really good shot at winning at region and I think it’s kind of a three-team race, maybe a four-team race, including us, to win state.”