PUEBLO — Sometimes there can be a preference in the way a championship is won. Start strong early and coast or stay in contention early and make a strong move late.
Hailey Schalk has now done it both ways. The Holy Family sophomore entered the final day of the Class 3A state golf tournament one stroke back of Colorado Academy's Caroline Jordaan. She responded on Tuesday with a 4-under-par-67 at Elmwood Golf Course to finish the tournament 6-under. That was good enough to claim her second state championship.
So naturally, of the two she had to think about which route to the title was preferable.
“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 struggled early on Monday, but things went her way in the first few holes of the second round. Her second shot on the par-5 third hole landed about four feet away for eagle. She missed the putt, but will always take the tap-in birdie.
She made par on each hole the rest of the front nine, going out in 35. Jordaan was the victim of the tough breaks early on Tuesday. She went long of the green on No. 2 and couldn't get up and down for par.
Her chip on No. 5 rolled well past the hole and she ended up three-putting for double-bogey. But she won't be going home empty-handed. The junior played well enough to help the Mustangs claim their third consecutive team championship. They won in 4A in 2016 before taking the 3A title last year in the class' first year of play.
It helped that Jordaan's sister Marie had a better round on Tuesday, shooting a 76.
“I think individually, it was more important to take it shot by shot," the younger Jordaan said. "Our team was really focused on how other teams were doing. Today, I was just trying to stay focused and, in the moment, and not looking ahead and thinking about my score. I just tried to find my good shots and try to feed off of that and not be negative and that really worked.”
The elder Jordaan sister has now finished in the top three at state in all three year's that she has played. Even making the turn on Tuesday, she was just a stroke back of Schalk. But the defending champion scrambled to make par on 13 and made a 45-foot putt on 14 to get a firm grip on the leaderboard.
“That was definitely awesome," Schalk said. "That’s just another confidence booster with my putter. It was nice to have a long birdie putt drop.”
A lost ball on 15 ended Jordaan's hopes of grabbing that elusive title. She was still able to go 2-under over her last three holes to help the Mustangs win as a team.
"It’s hard to have a bad hole like that, but it’s golf," Marie Jordaan said. As a team, I think we’re proud of everything we’ve done. We have to feel good as a team.”
Future state tournaments won't be any easier for Schalk. After winning in her first two tries, she figures to be a perennial favorite in the next two years. She has already shown the maturity to stay grounded and focused on her own rounds, something that will serve her well through the rest of her high school career.
"With her, she’s a grounded kid already," Holy Family coach Matt Schalk said. "I think she’ll learn from this and understand that we can accomplish the goals we set each day and that’s good enough to win. And if they’re not, then kudos to whoever beats you.”