Cooper Stewart, 4, takes a swing at a ball Tuesday morning during the Yampa River Junior Classic at Yampa Valley Golf Course. More than 50 young golfers, from 4 to 18 years old, competed in the tournament.

Photo by Ben Bulkeley

Cooper Stewart, 4, takes a swing at a ball Tuesday morning during the Yampa River Junior Classic at Yampa Valley Golf Course. More than 50 young golfers, from 4 to 18 years old, competed in the tournament.

Yampa River Junior Classic features more than 50 young golfers

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ben bulkeley/daily press Reagan Hafey, 5, of Vernal, Utah swings at a ball on the first hole at Yampa Valley Golf Course. On Tuesday, the course was filled with young golfers competing for trophies.

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Hale Hamilton, 5, watches her shot soar during the Yampa River Junior Classic. Hale was one of more than 50 golfers hitting the links during the one-day tournament.

Top 3 finishers

Name, score, place

Boys 7 to 9 years old (six holes):

Connor Etzler, 35, 1

Jacob Smith, 38, 2

Tristen Rohn, 38, 3

Girls 7 to 9 years old (six holes):

Ellie Walters, 46, 1

Masi Smith, 48, 2

Alexandra Frank, 59, 3

Girls 10 to 12 years old (nine holes):

Katie Rice, 56, 1

Alex Samuelson, 56, 2

Alex Hamilton, 58, 3

Boys 10 to 12 years old (nine holes):

Jake Lavinger, 44, 1

Brandon Martin, 44, 2

Matthew Hamilton, 55, 3

Girls 13 to 14 years old (nine holes):

Taylor Walters, 46, 1

Caitlin Harjes, 60, 2

Boys 15 to 17 years old (18 holes):

Chris Lavinger, 76, 1

Taylor Montgomery, 79, 1

Austin Edinger, 80, 2

Taylor Branstetter, 87, 3

Skyler Martin, 87, 3

Girls 15 to 17 years old, (18 holes):

Nike Cleverly, 110, 1

Sam Fox, 123, 2

With golfers varying in size from wee-putters to high school clubbers, the Yampa River Junior Classic invited more than 50 young golfers to hit the links Tuesday.

Yampa Valley Golf Course has sponsored the tournament, which features golfers between ages 4 and 18, for more than 30 years.

Each golfer spread out through the seven divisions was vying for a trophy.

Golfers in the 4 to 6 age division golfed three holes, while golfers from ages 7 to 9 golfed six holes. Golfers ages 10 to14 golfed nine holes, and players ages 15 and older played the full course.

Alex McKey, 17, was one of those golfers.

McKey said he was having a typical day on the course.

"I've been doing all right, I guess," he said. "Nothing special."

Brandon Martin, 12, of Steamboat Springs, played like Yampa Valley was his home course.

"It's been good," he said. "If I stay in first it will be even better."

Martin, who shot a 44, finished second.

"My best is 43," he said. "I had that earlier in the year."

Martin said Craig's course makes him a better golfer.

"There are so many obstacles, like trees, it makes you work," he said. "It makes you hit the ball straight."

Michael Samuelson, 15, of Craig, had to fight off a rough start to creep back up in the standings.

"My first hole was terrible," he said. "The next five or six were better."

Austin Edinger, 17, of Meeker, had to wake up at 6 a.m. to make it to Craig in time for the tournament.

"I've been to this course a couple of times before," he said. "It's pretty nice."

Perhaps the familiarity helped him, as he finished second in the boys 15 to 17 division with an 80.

"The course in Meeker has more hills," he said. "I like the fairways here, though."

In some of the divisions, there were tight races.

For boys 7 to 9 years old, Connor Etzler led the pack with a 35 in six holes. Jacob Smith and Tristan Rohn were right behind him with 38.

In the girls 7 to 9 division, Ellie Walters was first with 46, Masi Smith was second with 48, and Alexandra Frank was third with a 59.

In the girls 10 to 12 division, Katie Rice and Alex Samuelson led the way with 56, followed closely by Alex Hamilton, with 58.

For boys ages 10 to 12, Jake Lavinger and Brandon Martin shot a 44, followed by Matthew Hamilton with a 55.

For girls ages 13 to 14, Taylor Walters shot a 46 followed by Caitlin Harjes, who shot 60 through nine holes.

In the boys 15 to 17 division, there was a close battle between Chris Lavinger and Taylor Montgomery.

Lavinger finished with a 76 and Montgomery was right three strokes back with a 79.

Edinger finished with an 80, and Taylor Branstetter and Skyler Martin both finished with an 87.

For girls 15 to 17, Moffat County High School teammates Nike Cleverly and Sam Fox finished one and two, with Cleverly shooting 110 and Fox finishing with a 123.

Ann Marie Roberts, Yampa Valley's LPGA Golf professional, said the Classic's main purpose is to give young golfers a chance to show their skills on the course.

"It gives the juniors a chance to compete," she said. "For some of them, it's a chance to compete on their home course."

Roberts coaches Fox and Cleverly on the Moffat County High School girls varsity golf team.

"It was good to see them out there," she said. "I'm disappointed they all weren't out there, but it's always good to see them out there."

Roberts coached some of the youngest golfers on the course earlier in the summer and was heartened to see some return for the Classic.

"It gives them a chance to get out and play, and a reason to keep coming back," she said. "We want to see as many golfers as possible keep going with it."

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