The top stories of 2017 in Colorado golf, Part II
by Gary Baines
Following up from last week, when we started our two-part retrospective on the top Colorado golf stories of 2017 (CLICK HERE for the first installment), we continue our countdown with the top dozen stories of the year — in reverse order. And at the end, included is a list of honorable-mention selections.
12. USGA’s Passey Calls It a Career: Mark Passey spent 27 1/2 years as a director of regional affairs for the USGA, including the last 11 based in the Denver metro area. Passey was very highly regarded in the region, but in June at age 70, he retired, leaving big shoes to fill. (Kyle Nuss, based in Dallas, has taken over as the USGA’s director of regional affairs for the nine-state Central Region, which includes Colorado.) READ MORE
11. Workman’s Stellar Summer: Glenn Workman had a summer to remember in state and regional tournaments in 2017. The Pueblo West resident became the first player in history to win the CGA Amateur and Wyoming State Amateur in the same year. The University of Wyoming golfer also scored low-amateur honors at the Rocky Mountain Open and the Wyoming State Open. READ MORE
10. Big-Name Clinics for The First Tee in Colorado: Ever since CoBank took over as title sponsor of the Colorado Open Championships, some big-name tour players have been coming to Colorado to put on exhibitions, primarily aimed at the kids participating in The First Tee programs. Last year, Hale Irwin, Ryan Palmer and Paula Creamer did the honors. This year, David Duval, Lexi Thompson and Mark O’Meara came to First Tee sites, most notably the one at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club, which hosts the Colorado Open tournaments. That’s quite a run, considering those six players account for eight major championship victories.
9. Jobe’s Champions Breakthrough: Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Brandt Jobe came very close to winning on the PGA Tour during his time on that circuit, four times placing second, including at the 2005 International at Castle Pines. Then on the PGA Tour Champions, he finished third three times leading up to this past summer. But in June in Des Moines, Iowa, Jobe scored a breakthrough victory, prevailing in the PGA Tour Champions’ Principal Charity Classic. Jobe, who lived in Colorado from 1970 to ’99 before moving to Texas, also had a very strong record in senior majors in 2017, finishing second in the Senior Players, third in the U.S. Senior Open and eighth in the Senior PGA. He also matched the tournament record with a round of 62 at the U.S. Senior Open. READ MORE
8. $50K for CoBank Colorado Women’s Open Champ: As soon as the CoBank Colorado Open drastically raised its purse in 2016, a similar hike was virtually inevitable for the Colorado Women’s Open. You could take it to the (Co)Bank. Almost exactly a year after the purse for the men’s Open jumped to $250,000 — with an amazing $100,000 going to the winner — Colorado Open Golf Foundation officials announced a comparable increase, percentage-wise, for the CoBank Colorado Women’s Open. Not coincidentally, CoBank has been the title sponsor for the Colorado Open championships since the beginning of 2016. For the 2017 women’s tournament, first prize more than quadrupled — to $50,000 from $11,000 — and the overall purse doubled — to $150,000. In both cases, those are records for a women’s state/regional open and the $50,000 is considerably more than the winner received for any 2017 event on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s development circuit. Liz Breed of Waynesboro, Pa., claimed the first $50,000 winning prize, holding off amateur Jennifer Kupcho of Westminster, who finished runner-up for the second straight time in the CWO.
7. Kaye Wins 2nd Colorado Open, 21 Years After His First: Part-time Boulder resident Jonathan Kaye (left) hadn’t competed in a tournament in three months, but that didn’t stop the former University of Colorado golfer from winning the CoBank Colorado Open shortly before his 47th birthday. Kaye, a two-time PGA Tour winner who plays little tournament golf anymore, sank a 9-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Green Valley Ranch to post a one-stroke victory and earn the $100,000 first prize. Kaye, the runner-up in 2016, finished at 23-under par, which tied the tournament’s scoring record, relative to par. He became just the seventh golfer to win at least two Colorado Open titles. For the record, the 21 years between Colorado Open victories by Kaye is a record, bettering the 14 years between Brian Guetz’s wins (1994 and 2008). READ MORE
6. Bryant Slam: A junior golf oddity made this one of the top stories of the season in the state. The Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado schedule features four major championships, and the Bryant siblings won their own version of a grand slam by combining to claim all four titles. Davis Bryant won all three in which he competed — the Colorado Junior PGA, the Colorado Junior Amateur and the JGAC Tour Championship. And when he missed the Colorado Junior Match Play while he was competing in the national Junior PGA Championship — where he placed 14th — 14-year-old sister Emma pulled through for an improbable victory for the girls title. Davis Bryant went on to be named the boys JGAC Player of the Year after also winning the 5A state high school title, placing ninth individually in the Junior America’s Cup and advancing to the match play round of 64 at his second U.S. Junior Amateur.
5. CGA Vets Play Key Roles in Changes to Rules of Golf: Rules issues have played a major — and controversial — role in televised golf in recent years. And in the midst of all that, Rules modernization and simplification efforts by the USGA and the R&A have taken center stage. And at the core — or near the core, anyway — of those modernization efforts is the USGA Rules of Golf Committee. In 2017, three people who have worked for the CGA in the 21st century served on the committee — current executive director Ed Mate, along with former staffers Thomas Pagel (now a USGA employee) and Pete Lis (who works for the LPGA). That’s quite a Rules pedigree for the state association. READ MORE
4. Major Changes for Several Denver-Area Courses: This year turned out to be a big one regarding some of the oldest courses in the Denver metro area. On Nov. 1, 105-year-old City Park Golf Course closed until sometime in 2019, with the course being redesigned to accommodate a stormwater detention area which the city hopes will protect at-risk neighborhoods from flooding. World Golf Hall of Famer Hale Irwin and Broomfield-based iCon Golf Studio were picked to redesign the course. (A rendering of the new City Park GC clubhouse is at left.) Meanwhile, plans were approved so that another City of Denver course, Overland Park, will be closed for play for five weeks each September and early October from 2018-22 to host a three-day music festival. Then it was announced that Fitzsimons Golf Course, which dates back almost 100 years, would close for good in mid-December, making way for bioscience facilities and residential units.
3. Year to Remember for Clark: Although he previously came close on many occasions, former Highlands Ranch resident Wyndham Clark (left) didn’t score his first individual college victory until early in 2017. And that opened the floodgates for the then-University of Oregon senior, who posted three victories in his final 4 1/2 months as a collegian. One of those wins was a storybook ending as he prevailed at the Pac-12 Conference Championship in his home state, at Boulder Country Club, where he also won the 2010 CGA Amateur. With that strong final half of the season, Clark was named the 2017 Player of the Year in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, the Pac-12. That goes with the 2014 Big 12 Player of the Year honors he earned while at Oklahoma State. Clark ended up being one of three finalists for the national male college player of the year. Then since turning pro in June, Clark has made two cuts on the PGA Tour, including a 17th-place finish on Oct. 29 at the Sanderson Farms Championship. This month, he secured his playing card for 2018 on the Web.com Tour with a 23rd-place finish in the final stage of Q-school.
2. The Kupcho Show: Jennifer Kupcho of Westminster continues to up her game, as this year has demonstrated. The fact that she’s currently the No. 3-ranked women’s amateur in the world says plenty. The Wake Forest golfer came ever so close to
becoming the first Coloradan to win the women’s individual NCAA Division I title, leading by two with two holes left before a triple bogey resulted in a runner-up finish. She quickly rebounded from that disappointment to qualify for her second straight U.S. Women’s Open — and went on to finish 21st overall in arguably the most presigious women’s golf tournament in the world (despite taking a 9 on her 35th hole). She also won her first national title, the Canadian Women’s Amateur, by five strokes. Other victories included her third straight in the CWGA Stroke Play, and two wins this calendar year in college golf, where she was a finalist for women’s player of the year honors. She also placed second for the second straight time in the CoBank Colorado Women’s Open. Recently, Kupcho was named one of the top 11 women’s amateur golfers in the world by Global Golf Post and played in a practice session leading up to the 2018 Curtis Cup, though she isn’t guaranteed a spot on the U.S. team. Kupcho is also seventh in the women’s rankings leading up to the spring selection of the inaugural 12-player U.S. women’s team that will compete in the Arnold Palmer Cup July 6-8 in France. The Palmer Cup is a Ryder Cup-like competition for college golfers in which Americans play an International squad. (Australians Robyn Choi and Kirsty Hodgkins, who compete for the University of Colorado, are ranked 11th and 15th among the International players.)
1. CGA/CWGA Unification: The CGA and CWGA each celebrated 100th anniversaries in recent years, and most of that time they’ve been separate — but complementary — organizations serving golf in Colorado. But they’ve now joined forces — while continuing to serve golf in the state — under the banner of the Colorado Golf Association, which will serve roughly 60,000 members. As part of efforts to streamline its relationship with state and regional golf associations, the USGA announced more than a year ago that, starting at the beginning of 2018, it will partner will just one full-service Allied Golf Association in each state or region. That directive led to this unification. The board of directors of the two associations have formed into one leadership team. Joe McCleary, the CGA president for the last two years, and Juliet Miner, who has served as the CWGA president for a similar time, will be co-presidents of the CGA for the coming year. The staff of the associations have also merged, based out of the current CGA offices in Greenwood Village.
(At top, pictured together earlier this year after formally reaching an agreement were McCleary and Miner along with CGA executive director Ed Mate and his CWGA counterpart, Laura Robinson, the new managing director of program integration for the CGA.)
As Mate, who will remain the CGA’s executive director moving forward, said earlier this year, “I’ve been working for the CGA for a long time — over 25 years in stops and starts — and to me it’s the most significant thing we’ve ever done because I think it’s going to position golf and all the things we represent for the next 100 years.” READ MORE
— David Duval, once the top-ranked golfer in the world, moved from Cherry Hills Village to Atlantic Beach, Fla., in recent months. The 2001 British Open champion had lived in Colorado for more than a dozen years. He was born and raised in northeast Florida. Other Colorado-based tour players who have departed the Centennial State in 2016 and ’17 are Sam Saunders (also now in Atlantic Beach, Fla.) and Mark Wiebe (San Jose, Calif.), who’s now the director of instruction at San Jose Country Club. All three are returning to their roots as Duval and Saunders are native Floridians and Wiebe went to college at San Jose State.
— The drinks were on Peyton Manning — he who helped the Broncos claim their third Super Bowl title less than two years ago — after the former quarterback great made a hole-in-one at No. 12 at Cherry Hills Country Club on Nov. 25. For the record, the weapon of choice was a 5-iron from 196 yards.
— Colorado Springs resident Kaden Ford became just the fourth Coloradan in five years to qualify for the national finals of the Drive Chip & Putt Championship, hosted by Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia on the eve of the Masters. Ford will be among 80 contestants on April 1. READ MORE
— This year marked a major historical milestone in Colorado golf as it was 50 years since Columbine Country Club hosted the 1967 PGA Championship. To this day, it’s the only PGA Tour major that’s been held at a Colorado site other than Cherry Hills Country Club. READ MORE
— 2016 CGA Les Fowler Player of the Year Kyler Dunkle scored his first individual college victory — and did it in his home state — as the University of Utah junior prevailed in the University of Colorado’s Mark Simpson Invitational in Erie in late September. Dunkle closed with a 64 at Colorado National. READ MORE
— Former CU golfer Sebastian Heisele posted two top-five finishes — a third and a fourth — in his rookie year on the European Tour. Then he shot a final-round 65 in Q-school to regain his card for the 2017-18 wraparound season.
— The Mile High Showdown World Long Drive event at Park Hill produced drives of 485 yards for the men and 406 yards for the women. READ MORE
— CU teammates Esther Lee and Brittany Fan shared stroke-play medalist honors in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball before falling in the round of 16 of match play.
— University of Denver golfer Chris Korte won the CGA Match Play, completing a career sweep of major CGA titles. READ MORE
— Three Colorado courses were included among Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses” — the grandaddy of all the rankings as the first and the most respected. Making the grade were Castle Pines Golf Club (No. 42), Ballyneal (No. 50), and Cherry Hills Country Club (No 73). READ MORE
— The Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy — a popular initiative which promotes the use of caddies by paying the base caddie fees through an educational grant, with participating golfers having the option of adding a tip — added a small pilot program in Grand Junction. READ MORE
— Former Colorado State University golfer Martin Laird surpassed $15 million in earnings after a decade on the PGA Tour.
— Coloradan Mackenzie Cohen helped Rhodes College in Memphis win the NCAA Division III women’s national title for the second straight year. READ MORE
— Denver’s Jonathan Marsico won his second straight Charlie Coe Invitational team event at Castle Pines. READ MORE
— Former Coloradan Open champion Ben Portie was named the women’s head coach in golf at the University of Northern Colorado. READ MORE
— Jackson Solem of Longmont becomes the first Coloradan since 2009 to win a match at the U.S. Junior Amateur.
— With a fourth-place showing, Colorado recorded its third top-four finish since 2011 at the Junior America’s Cup. READ MORE
— Coloradans competed for the final time as the USGA State Team Championships ended their run. READ MORE
— Littleton’s Jim Knous earned official money ($24,480) on the PGA Tour for the first time in his career by tying for 41st place after Monday qualifying for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. READ MORE
— A CU Evans Scholar alum honored the chapter’s “founding fathers” by endowing scholarships for Dick Campbell, Sonny Brinkerhoff and Homer McClintock. READ MORE