Chalk one up for the Western Slope.
Melissa Martin of Grand Junction capped a wire-to-wire victory in the CWGA Stroke Play Championship on Thursday in fitting fashion — by draining a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at Valley Country Club.
For Martin, a sophomore-to-be on the Colorado State University golf team, it was the biggest victory of her career.
“So far,” she said. “I definitely think so. Nothing tops this.”
The win was Martin’s second in a major CWGA championship, following the Junior Match Play crown she claimed in 2007.
This time, Martin’s final-hole birdie gave her a three-stroke victory margin. In shooting a 1-over-par 73 Thursday for a 6-under 210 total, only Denver’s Becca Huffer put any pressure on during the final day.
Martin had given herself plenty of cushion (six strokes) with her career round — a 68 — on Wednesday. That lead grew to seven shots with an opening-hole birdie on Thursday. But with Huffer, a two-time state high school champion and the 2008 CWGA Player of the Year, in second place, Martin couldn’t afford to feel too comfortable.
“I never did because Becca is an awesome player,” Martin said of the Notre Dame sophomore-to-be. “I tried not to think about the lead. I got some good advice — to play like it was the third round of a 72-hole event.”
Huffer shot a 2-under-par 70 on the final day to finish three strokes behind Martin. A pair of Colorado Golf of Famers — Kim Eaton and Janet Moore — placed third and fourth, respectively, at 219 and 220. Defending champion Ashley Tait and Somin Lee, winner of the last three CWGA junior championships, shared fifth place at 224.
Huffer slowly closed the gap on Thursday, but the closest she came to Martin — two strokes — came after holing a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 18, just before Martin put one in on top of her.
“It was a lot to make up,” Huffer said of the six-shot deficit she faced coming into the day. “And Melissa was playing really well. I needed a few more putts to fall because Melissa wasn’t giving anything away.”
Huffer missed three short birdie putts on the final nine that cost her a shot at the title — an 8-footer on No. 10, a 5-footer on No. 14, and a 4-footer at No. 15.
Martin only had one letdown on the final nine holes, three-putting No. 16 to cut her lead to three. Every time she got into a hint of trouble, her short game bailed her out. Martin one-putted five times on the back nine.
“This feels good,” she said. “My game is definitely better these days. It’s as good as it’s ever been. It’s cool to think I got it in the hole in fewer strokes than anyone else.”
Martin, a 19-year-old from Central High School in Grand Junction, just completed a solid freshman season at CSU. She finished with the 10th-best season-long scoring average in the Mountain West Conference (75.9) and placed ninth in the MWC Championships.
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