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Golf: Ashton rolls to 2010 victory with 5 and 4 win in men's finale

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By Mike Cote

For Parker Ashton, this summer has been all about building confidence.

That confidence he’s seeking got a pretty big shot in the arm this week.

Ashton, a recent graduate from St. Michael’s High School in Santa Fe, picked up four wins at the Atomic City Invitational, including an impressive victory in the men’s final of the tournament.

Sunday, Ashton outlasted Curt Norman to claim the ACI title in his first go-round at the tournament. Ashton picked up the victory on the 23rd hole of the scheduled 27-hole finale.

As he had all day, Ashton stroked a fine wedge shot onto the fifth green and set himself up for a birdie chance. He would end up parring the hole, but that would be good enough to clinch the victory over Norman, a former standout golfer for Los Alamos High School who has become a regular competitor in the tournament.

Although Norman, who two days earlier tripped up two-time defending champion Lee Sanchez, was right around par all day, Ashton’s surgeon-like iron game was simply too much to keep up with.

“It was really good,” Ashton said. “It’s really nice because usually my game’s off the tee. But my approaches and my wedges are really coming around.”

Ashton’s run in the 2010 ACI was reminiscent of Sanchez’s run in 2009. Ashton, a protégé of Sanchez, actually outlasted the veteran for the qualifying title Wednesday, then rumbled through three opponents, including grabbing his 5 and 4 victory over Norman.

Norman said he was actually fairly pleased with the way he played in the tournament, but Ashton kept the pressure squarely on his shoulders the whole way Sunday.

“I hit the ball real well most of the week,” Norman said. “My putter wasn’t great, but it was good enough. I’m pretty happy with the way I hit the ball.”

With the first 18 holes winding down, Norman had one of his roughest holes of the day. He hit his driver off the 16th into the rough, then got into some more trouble near the green.

Ashton, meanwhile, stung one of his best irons of the day, dropping his second shot within 15 feet of the cup to take a 4-hole lead.

Norman would never make the push he needed after that hole to get back into the match.

For Ashton, who has aspirations of walking onto the New Mexico State University golf team next year, the tournament could've scarcely gone better.

After knocking off Robert Ortiz in the opener, Ashton closed out Kevin Brake 4 and 3 to advance to the semifinal. In the semifinal, Ashton topped a red hot player in Warren Finch by a final of 8 and 6 to get to Sunday's championship.

The tournament, he said, helped him get over one of his golf bugaboos.

"Match play for me was never solid," Ashton said. "I had to go out and execute for 18 holes. I felt like I could do that. I wasn't going to lose."