Eaglecrest junior Savanna Becker, a Class 5A girls state golf tournament qualifier in 2021, lines up her shot during Southern Regional qualifying on May 24, 2022, at Meadow Hills G.C. in Aurora. Becker finished fourth to become the 13th player from Aurora-area programs headed to this season’s state tournament. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

AURORA | Going into the final Class 5A regional tournament — the Southern Region at Meadow Hills G.C. — the Aurora area already had double-digit qualifiers for the upcoming state tournament.

That number climbed by one when the tournament concluded, as Eaglecrest junior Savanna Becker shot an 84 and finished in fourth place to become the 13th local player headed to the 5A state tournament, which runs May 31-June 1 at The Olde Course at Loveland.

Three city programs will have enough players (three) to register a team score as Cherokee Trail, Grandview and Regis Jesuit all advanced three or four players out of regional play Monday and senior Caroline Gardland — Smoky Hill’s only player this season — earned a state spot individually.

Of the team qualifiers, only Cherokee Trail got in via one of the automatic qualifying spots that go to the top two teams in each of four regional tournaments.

Coach Justin Jajczyk’s Cougars were no strangers to winning tournaments in the regular season — taking both the Cherry Creek Invitational as well as one of the Centennial League tournaments — and they added another by taking the title at the 5A Northern Region tournament at Collingdale G.C. by 18 strokes.

All four Cherokee Trail players finished in the top 11 with returning state qualifier Bead Boonta, a junior, and freshman Kaleigh Babineaux finishing with identical plus-7 78s to tie for third place. The 84 shot by freshman Haylee Clark — which tied her for ninth — gave the Cougars plenty to win the team title, while senior Devin Gilbreath came in close behind with an 87 and will head to her second straight state tournament.

In the same regional, Regis Jesuit finished fourth as a team — just two strokes out of earning the second automatic team spot — but qualified all four of its individuals in juniors Caitlin Neumann, Georgia Meysman-Sharpe and Ella Denslow along with freshman Audrey Whitmore.

Neumann earned her way into a second straight state tournament with an 82 that put her in sixth place individually, while two of the 13 individual state spots for golfers not on the top two finishing teams went to Meysman-Sharpe and Denslow. The teammates were part of a three-way tie for 13th place with scores of 89.

Whitmore got the 13th and final individual spot with a 93.

Grandview had the team lead at the Western Region tournament at Broken Tee G.C. in the early going, but ended up in fourth place as Loveland and Valor Christian headed the team standings.

Sophomore Caroline Ryan earned an easy return to the state tournament as she finished as part of a three-way tie for second place (behind runaway winner Katelyn Lehigh of Loveland) with a round of plus-11 83. Junior Allie Arritola shot 88 to finish ninth and make her first state tournament, while junior Courtney Ladymon is a repeat state qualifier as her 94 also secured an individual spot.

Under the watchful eye of coach Laurie Steenrod, Gardland is a state qualifier after the lone Buffalo finished in a tie for 12th place at the Central Region tournament played on the Lind-Creek Course at Kennedy G.C.

Gardland recorded her only birdie of the round on her final hole to finish with a plus-18 89, but it kept the Smoky Hill senior easily clear of the cut for individual qualifiers.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

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