The battle to be the top junior girls golfer in the state of Alaska is no contest.
No contest not because there is an obviously superior golfer, but no contest because sisters and Kenai Middle School students Katelin and Anika Richards aren’t interested in competing against each other.
Both girls put their skills on display at the Birch Ridge Golf Course Junior Golf Championships on Thursday under sunny skies.
Katelin, a 13-year-old going into eighth grade, won the 13 and up girls title with a nine of 45 at the par-35 layout.
Anika, who is going into sixth grade at Kenai Middle School, won 10-, 11- and 12-year-old girls category with a 41.
Thursday, the age categories were set up so the Richards did not have to compete against each other.
But at The Eclectic Physical Therapy Open in Palmer in mid-June, there were only categories for those 14 to 18 and those 11 to 13.
Rather than play in her age group, Katelin played against 14- to 18-year-olds and still won. Anika, of course, cruised to the 11 to 13 title.
“My sister said there is no way I should have to play against her,” Katelin said. “She said I am too much bigger than she is.”
And while Anika posted a better score than Katelin on Thursday, it wasn’t something registering on her radar as she sat at the post-tournament barbecue enjoying a hamburger.
“I haven’t even checked,” she said.
Katelin’s 45 was enough to beat the 58s of sisters Danica and Aliann Schmidt and the 70 of Taylor Carver.
But for Katelin, the 45 was actually a step back after firing a 78 at Birch Ridge on Wednesday. She said her biggest mistake Thursday was going out of bounds on a par 3.
“I chipped in from 80 yards out on hole 2,” Katelin said of her first eagle on Wednesday. “I was really happy.”
Katelin started playing golf about four years ago, but has really picked up the intensity in the last year and a half. Last year, she was able to win an Alaska Junior Golf Association state championship.
She will have home-course advantage this year when the State Junior Championship is held at Birch Ridge on Aug. 3 and 4.
The state championship is on a three-year rotation, but Birch Ridge will have a yearly tournament that the AJGA considers one of its majors. That is the Birch Ridge Junior Masters, which will be held on July 20 and 21 this year.
Katelin also will be going to some Lower 48 tournaments this summer in the pursuit of her dream of playing college golf.
“If you can shoot under 80, you can get a college scholarship,” Katelin said. “I’m really happy because I’ve already done that.”
Anika’s 41 was tops in a four-person field that also included JulieAnn Nye’s 56, Julie Widaman’s 57 and Crystle Tapia’s 75.
The 41 was the lowest nine ever for Anika.
“I just had a growth spurt,” Anika said. “I’m a little stronger so I’m hitting the ball farther.”
Anika said her putting was always there for her Thursday when she needed a shot to keep her score on a hole from getting out of control.
But Anika also was impressed with her competitors.
“This was the first time playing in a tournament for a lot of people,” she said. “Like Julie (Widaman), she did really good for her first time in a tournament.”
The boys 13-and-over title went to Max Dye. Dye will be a junior this school year at Kenai Central, and his age meant he was playing at tees farther back than his fellow competitors.
But he still came out on top of a field including Hudson Jackson (88), Brock Kant (102), Cody Nye (104) and Andrew Carver (109).
Dye golfs daily at Birch Ridge or Kenai Golf Course, and his lowest round ever is a 72.
He would like to win a state championship this summer, and he’s hoping he found an approach that will get the job done.
“I tried to have a little bit more fun at this tournament,” he said. “Even when I hit a bad shot, I tried to keep my spirits up.
“That definitely seemed to help a lot.”
Like Anika Richards, Dye credited his fellow players with making the tournament enjoyable.
“Even though some of the other players had tougher rounds, they kept their spirits up,” said Dye, who would like to play college golf. “That made it easier to have fun.”
The crown for 10-, 11- and 12-year-old boys went to Shane Sundberg, who will be a fifth-grader at Sterling Elementary.
Sundberg had a 44, while Caleb Tachick was at 58 and Jordan Henley carded 74.
All the AJGA events Sundberg has been in have just had slots for 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds, so the 10-year-old Sundberg will finally get to battle players his age this season.
He was third at an AJGA event last year, and 5th at one the year before.
Sundberg has gone as low as 41 for nine holes, and actually won the men’s net against all the adults at the Kenai Peninsula Open in August 2014 by carding an 87 on the final day of the tournament as a 9-year-old.
Even Shane’s father, Scott, is not immune from his son’s precocious game.
“I just beat him by 10 strokes,” Shane said.
And Scott said he has no problem with that.
“I have to have my ‘A’ game to beat him,” he said. “That day, I had my ‘D’ game.”