Mustangs grad Ashley Tait is school’s latest hire

Three-time golf champion and 3-year assistant now heads program  

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

The trend of current and former professionals coaching in the prep ranks has been real for decades in Colorado, although not notably relevant in golf.

Mullen’s girls team has been an exception as Ashley Tait has served as an assistant over the past three seasons. It got better recently, when Tait was named the team’s new head coach.

“I’m really excited and I think the girls are happy I’m coming back,” Tait said this week.

One of the best Colorado players since the game was sanctioned in 1990, Tait, a Mustangs alumnus, was Class 4A medalist in 2002, 2003 and 2005. She went on to Tulane, then SMU after Hurricane Katrina and finished North Carolina-Wilmington. Her list of accomplishments also includes competing in three U.S. National Publinx Championships, being a college conference championship winner, runner-up in a couple of state opens and playing on the Symetra Tour, the step before joining the LPGA.

Also employed at Raccoon Creek Golf Course in Littleton, where her father, Pat, is the pro, Tait is currently rehabbing a back problem before again attempting to join the ladies big tour.

When she heard that longtime Mustangs coach Kate Walker resigned and opted to go to Middle Park, Tait, who was on four of Mullen’s five consecutive state-championship teams, said she approached athletic director Vince Massey “and told him I was willing to take it over.”

Some rebuilding will be required, Tait said, “and we have a lot of new players to golf, some who may have picked it up the last few years. But we have a lot of potential and athletes in general.

“We have some improving to do, but they’re a fun bunch of girls.”

Tait likes the fact that “I’ll actually be able to teach them,” and “depending on my playing career, I would like to help in some long-term capacity. I enjoy coaching.”

First Day of 3A Golf Tourney

By Neil H. Devlin
Mullen Sports Information Specialist

Mullen ran into the debut of Class 3A girls golf on Monday.  And the debut was convincing over the par-71, 5,434-yard layout.  Competing at The Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield, launch of the latest classification provided some high-end play in the first of two rounds.

Holy Family freshman Hailey Schalk fired a 6-under-par 65 to open a six-shot lead.  And teamwise, Colorado Academy, the winner in 4A a year ago, combined for an opening-round 2-over total of 215, some 23 strokes better than second-place Holy Family.  As for the Mustangs, senior Meghan Witt carded a 58-50—108. She was followed by Paige Sowitch (113) and Morgan Gross (157).  Witt said “the course isn’t that hard, it’s just the water. And at least this is a two-day tournament.”

With Tuesday being her last round as a high-schooler, Witt said “it’s bittersweet, but it has been a good four years and I’ve improved every year. And it has been fun being on the team.”  On Tuesday, Witt and teammates will go off from the No. 10 tee. Witt will be at 8:39 a.m., Sowitch at 9:24 a.m. and Gross at 10:27 a.m.

As one of 40 schools to be represented, Mullen will be in the inaugural Class 3A girls golf state tournament on Monday and Tuesday.  The third classification to join the fray since sanctioning, the 3A group will compete at the Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield.  Three Mustangs have qualified, enough to get them into the team chase. They will begin at hole No. 10, each in succession. Meghan Witt will tee off at 9:24 a.m., Morgan Gross at 9:33 p.m. and Paige Sowitch at 9:42 a.m.  

The Broadlands opened in 1999. It will play at a par 72 for the girls with a course rating of 72.9 and slope rating of 135.  


The weather turned awful, but the results proved awfully pleasant.

Competing in one of the new Class 3A girls golf regionals on Monday, Mullen, after lightning delays, some rain and plenty of wind, did something it hadn’t done in more than a decade, according to coach Kate Walker.

The Mustangs qualified as a team (three players) for the first time since 2007 – the last time it won a state title -- and may add a fourth qualifier. At Spring Valley Golf Course in Elizabeth, Morgan Gross, Paige Sowitch and Meghan Witt advanced as individual qualifiers. Moving three to the 3A state tournament at The Broadlands G.C. in Broomfield from May 22-23 gives Mullen team status. In addition, Melicia Robles was named as second alternate. Walker said Robles’ chance to compete is fairly good as conflicts with testing, graduation and other end-of-school-year activities could easily change the field.

As it was, the 3A Region 2 field came with an assortment of players who picked up their balls as well as no-shows.

“It could happen,” Coach Walker said.

As for being represented at state in full, Walker said “It’s a great feeling because it has been since 2005 that we’ve had a team (at state), since Ashley (Tait, a Mustangs assistant coach) was here. That’s kind of a cool note. It was Ashley’s senior year. Now, she’s here as a coach.”

Witt, a senior who made the 4A state field a year ago, led Mullen’s scoring. She went 45-50—95, a stroke off her best output of the season (she scored 94 in a round at Englewood’s Broken Tee G.C.).

“The front nine was a lot easier than the back,” she said. “And the weather and rain delay made me, like, stiff.”

Witt turned in a birdie and a par back-to-back at the end of the front nine for her best holes of the day and was able to keeping grinding as “I think a lot of the girls thought they were going to shoot better.”

Walker said she kept reminding the Mustangs about the unknown in a new classification and it worked. Sowitch shot 111 and Gross 112.

“A lot of the scores could be higher,” Walker said before tee off and it was true. It also gave the inexperienced Mustangs better opportunity.

A freshman, Sowitch’s first foray into postseason golf was successful “and really fun, and I’m really excited. I worked hard for it.”

Sarah Hwang of St. Mary’s fired a brilliant 4-under-par 68 to take top individual honors. She won by five strokes over Kent Denver’s Charlotte Hillary, who was 1-over. Witt’s effort was good for ninth. Sowitch was 19th and Gross 20th.

Teamwise, Kent Denver, which took individual sports 2 through 5, walked to the team title with plus-23 239. The Sun Devils were regular challengers in 4A. Host Elizabeth was next but way back at 299. The Classical Academy was third (302) and Mullen fourth (318).

 

Team was the relevant word for the Mustangs. They were in a new group, noted Witt, as “I had never seen any of these girls before,” other than those on Kent Denver.

However, dropping down into a new class “probably gives us a good chance since we played in a higher (league, the Centennial).”

Entering the regional, Walker said, “I was fairly, cautiously optimistic. The girls still had to persevere and compete. I knew the scores would be high and they would not be discouraged if they had some bad holes, and to never give up. Ashley told them that. And the challenging weather …

“And two weeks to get ready? One exciting opportunity is The Classical Academy will have a tournament at the Air Force Academy. So that will be an opportunity the Wednesday before state and be a good way to stay competitive and have something to play toward and keep the competitive juices flowing.”

The array of conflicts at the end of the school year will be testing, Walker said, but going to state as a team “makes it more special when you have your teammates there.”

 

CLASS 3A REGION 2

At Spring Valley G.C.

Par 72

Top teams – Kent Denver 239; Elizabeth 299; The Classical Academy 302; Mullen 318; Burlington 330.

 

Top individuals – Sarah Hwang, St. Mary’s, 68; Charlotte Hillary, Kent Denver, 73; Marin Halvorsen, Kent Denver, 82; Sadie Mauger, Kent Denver, 84; Austine Jobe, Kent Denver, 85.

 

Mullen – Meghan Witt, 95; Paige Sowitch, 111; Morgan Gross, 112; Melicia Robles, 116.

 

By Neil H. Devlin

Mullen girls golfers soon will be part of the state’s expanding history.

When the Mustangs join 11 other programs on Monday at Spring Valley Ranch G.C. in Elizabeth for regional rounds, they will embark on advancing to the first Class 3A state tournament. The advent of a third class, however, undoubtedly will come with certain challenges.

“It will be interesting,” veteran Mustangs coach Kate Walker said. “We’ve never had three divisions before, so, ultimately, more will be qualifying.”  The new class will have 84 qualifiers.  “It will be interesting to see,” Walker added. “I think we’ll see some higher qualifying scores. Just how high that is …”

Additional opportunities for female players will be available and Mullen, for so long a program that was successful on the 4A level – five consecutive 4A team championships from 2001-05 -- wants some of them.

On Wednesday at Meadow Hills G.C. in Aurora, the Mustangs finished fifth among six teams in the final regular-season gathering of the Centennial League (Overland fielded only a junior-varsity team and Smoky Hill had just two varsity entrants). In a nine-hole format that was shortened from 18 because of the overnight and morning cold, wind, rain, sleet and snow, senior Meghan Witt and freshman Morgan Gross topped Mullen scoring. Witt shot 11-over-par 46 and Gross turned in 51.

Walker, whose team is mostly inexperienced and devoid of players whose primary sport is golf, was encouraged heading into the postseason, notably under the trying atmospheric conditions that accompany most Colorado spring-sports days.  “The weather was tough and it was pretty ugly,” she said. “The afternoon helped tremendously with their attitude. Sometimes playing 18 holes can be challenging, particularly with the (bad) weather.

“I’m pleased. Meghan Witt, our No. 1, had her best nine-hole showing for the season, which is really positive.”  On the tighter, tree-lined course that recently had its greens aerated to also add to the conditions, Witt, a state qualifier a year ago, said the course “wasn’t long, it was wet.” She said she got on the “bogey train,” but added that she has “gotten a lot stronger, I’m hitting it farther.”  As for Gross, she termed the final league gathering “fun” and that she and her teammates “used it as kind of a practice round.”

Walker called Meadow Hills “probably the hardest course we play in our league tournaments” and “watching today and, 1, I think our ball-striking was better and, 2, I think we’re peaking at the right time. The rust is coming off.”

The Mustangs, along with Morgan Wills (55), and Marie McCarthy and Paige Sowitch (57), totaled 209 for the day. Cherry Creek edged Grandview 155-159, although the Wolves won the overall league title by a stroke. Individual medalist on Monday was Grandview’s Amy Chitkoksoong, who fired a 2-under 33.  Heading into regionals, where 21 in each group will qualify for state – four members on two teams and 13 individuals – anticipation is relatively high for Mullen.

“Playing at state last year has given me confidence,” Witt said.  Said Gross: “We feel good about it.”  Other teams in the Mustangs’ regional – Burlington, The Classical Academy, Englewood, Denver North, Denver West, James Irwin, Kent Denver, Lutheran, St. Mary’s, St. Mary’s Academy and SkyView Academy.

RESULTS

Teams – Cherry Creek 155, Grandview 159, Arapahoe 173, Cherokee Trail 190, Mullen 209, Eaglecrest 216.

Top individuals – Amy Chitkoksoong, Grandview, 33; Stephanie Bang, Cherry Creek; Morgan Ryan, Grandview, 38; Amisha Singh, Smoky Hill, 39; Hannah Fey, Cherry Creek, and Beth Lebar, Arapahoe, 40.

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