Girls golf preview: New 3A class gives more girls the opportunity to compete

4A girls state golf

Colorado Academy's Caroline Jordaan takes at the green. The Mustangs will compete as a 3A team in 2017. (Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

With great numbers comes great opportunity.

In high school athletics, that is the name of the game after all: opportunity.

That will be afforded to more girls this spring as golf will begin play with a third classification for the first time.

In 2017, the state of Colorado will feature 104 golf programs. The numbers are there, meaning that it was time to widen competition and add a third class in order to provide more chances for girls from smaller schools not just to participate, but to compete.

"It was going to be very difficult with a classification as big as 4A and 5A was for a lot of our smaller schools to be able to compete," said golf committee chair Mike Hughes, the athletic director at Vista PEAK. "Even though it's an individual sport, there is still a team component. To have a sport with such a big swing from the smallest schools in the state to schools with about 1,300 kids makes it fairly tough for those schools to compete."

That's not to say that schools that are 3A schools that were competing in Class 4A weren't succeeding. Colorado Academy claimed the overall team title. This year, the Mustangs will compete as a 3A team.

Kent Denver's Marin Halvorsen and Rifle's Elly Walters both excelled individually last year and as a result, made the CHSAANow.com all-state team. Both will return to the links this spring, looking to claim individual golf championships and better placings for their teams.

"It's exciting," Walters said. "Obviously Colorado Academy is still in our classification and they're going to be really good again, but I'm excited because as a team too, I really think we have a chance (to compete)."

But for smaller schools with some potential lower participation numbers, the overall addition of a 3A class can provide girls a chance to do things they maybe couldn't do a year ago.

"I think it'll give more girls an opportunity to say that they've played in a state tournament," Manitou Springs coach Ken Vecchio said. "I know in the past, I'd bet that about 65 percent of the kids that qualified were from 4A schools and the 35 were below. Having a 3A and below, I think that'll be good for girls."

4A girls state golf

Manitou Springs' Danielle Ortonward. (Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

In each of the last two 4A tournaments, the Mustangs have only qualified one golfer for the state tournament. But now the door is open for more girls from schools like Manitou, Alamosa, Wray, Swink, and others, to step on the course at a state championship event.

It's not just a benefit for those at smaller schools. The creation of 3A will also see positive results in the 4A and 5A classes as well. With the classes evened out through enrollment it should provide tough competition at events such as regionals or state championships.

"I think it's the right thing to do," Cheyenne Mountain coach John Carricato said. "What my understanding is that the top third in enrollment are in 5A, the middle third is in 4A and the bottom third is 3A. When you look at it that way, it certainly levels out the playing field. You still have to have stud players."

And that will be the case for each class. Stud players will remain atop the leaderboards, but now girls who may have finished in the top 20 now have a chance to bring home a medal.

And with 252 total golfers set to compete at the state championship tournaments in May, more of those opportunities exist today and will continue to grow in the coming years.

"The opportunity comes from more people and more teams potentially having success because there's three classes now," Carricato said. "I can draw back to last year and even though we were three-time state champs, taking second was still rewarding. Now another team gets to take second."

It's another sign of increased interest and participation in high school athletics. And with 2017 marking the first year of additional chances for new players and teams to compete, it's only a matter of time before more athletes begin taking advantage of them.

"Anything we can do as a state and as an association that can positively impact the development and growth of a child in a positive way is going to be a win for us," Hughes said. "How we go about structuring that and how we go about offering opportunities for kids and schools to compete is something that's going to adjust every couple of years."

Girls golf preview

Class 5A

  • Defending individual champion: Mary Weinstein, Regis Jesuit (graduated)
  • Defending state champion: Grandview
  • Regular season begins: Mar. 2
  • Regional tournaments: May 11-12
  • State tournament: May 22-23, The Club at Rolling Hills, Golden
  • Returning all-state golfers: Julia Baroth, Sr., Denver East; Amy Chitkoksoong, So., Grandview; Leigha Devine, So., Fossil Ridge; Jaclyn Murray, Sr., Regis Jesuit;  Jordan Remley, Sr., Regis Jesuit.

Class 4A

  • Defending individual champion: Erin Sargent, Silver Creek (graduated)
  • Defending state champion: Colorado Academy (now 3A)
  • Regular season begins: Mar. 2
  • Regional tournaments: May 11-12
  • State tournament: May 22-23, Colorado National, Erie
  • Returning all-state players: Lauren Lehigh, So., Loveland; Sydney Prey, Sr., Golden; Kellsey Sample, Sr., Palmer Ridge.

Class 3A

  • Defending individual champion: None (first season)
  • Defending state champion: None (first season)
  • Regular season begins: Mar. 2
  • Regional tournaments: May 11-12
  • State tournament: May 22-23, Broadlands Golf Course, Broomfield
  • Returning all-state players: Marin Halvorsen, Sr., Kent Denver; Caroline Jordaan, So., Colorado Academy; Elly Walters, Jr., Rifle.