Berry's best

Hometown favorite takes Haywhacker title

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When he was younger, Paul Berry said he used to play his best golf when he didn't know the score.

On Thursday, the 16-year-old Steamboat Springs golfer proved he had learned his lessons well by winning the Colorado Junior Golf Association's Haywhacker golf tournament, which came to a close at the Haymaker Golf Course on Thursday afternoon.

"It's hard not to know what your score is because people are telling you all the time. I just don't focus on it," Berry said.

But not focusing on the score when you are playing in the lead group can be a challenge.

Thanks to his opening round of 68 on Wednesday -- his best round ever -- Berry was sitting in second place, just one stroke behind Montrose golfer Collin Covault when he stepped to the No. 1 tee Thursday.

The hometown favorite survived the pressure of playing with the tournament leader, Englewood golfer Matthew Rubin, and Aurora golfer Branden Barron. Rubin and Barron also were in the hunt after opening with rounds of 71.

"I didn't want to think about (Wednesday's) score," Berry said. "Or at least that was the goal."

Instead, Berry took it one stroke and one hole at a time in the final round. If he had a bad hole, he left it on the green as he exited and shifted his focus to the next hole.

His strategy paid off as he finished the front nine one over par. He was two under on the back nine until he stumbled a bit on No. 17 with a double bogie.

But Berry refused to let his problems on that hole ruin his round. He said he put it out of his mind and was able to recover with a birdie on the final hole.

He finished the tournament four strokes under par at 140.

It was more than enough to hold off Denver's Mark Hubbard, who was playing one group in front of Berry. He shot a 71 in the final round to move into second at 143. Barron held on to finish third at 147, and Covault fell to 14th at 153 after 36 holes.

Berry was playing in the championship flight, which included golfers 14 through 18 years of age with handicaps of 5 or under.

"We developed this tournament on a local level several years ago," Haymaker golf pro Hank Franks said. "The CJGA took it over three years ago, and it's really become a win-win situation for us."

Franks said the event draws tourists to Steamboat, exposes Haymaker to the front range and gives juniors a chance to compete at the next level.

Berry became the first Steamboat golfer to win the tournament since the CJGA took it over.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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