The top stories of 2017 in Colorado golf, Part I
by Gary Baines
It’s the year-ending holiday season, which means different things to different people.
One of the things that comes with this time of year here at coloradogolf.org and coloradowomensgolf.org is a reflection on the past 12 months and compilation of the top stories of the year in Colorado golf. We’ve been doing it annually since 2009, and we’re not about to stop now.
There’s no lack of worthwhile candidates, so in recent years we’ve broken up the list into a two-part series. We go in reverse order, for the sake of preserving some suspense, and add an honorable-mention list that will be included with Part II, which will be published in the coming days.
Today, we’ll cover Nos. 25-13, so without further ado …:
25. Year 2 for Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado: The JGAC, which made quite a splash upon debuting in 2016, continued a significant upward trajectory in 2017. The Alliance — a joint effort of the CGA, Colorado PGA and CWGA — further expanded its reach by creating more tournaments, including several in western Colorado, and adding services. Junior players of all abilities can benefit from JGAC-related programs, including anything from the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy to Colorado PGA Golf in Schools to the Hale Irwin Elite Player Program to Drive Chip & Putt and PGA Junior League competitions.
24. Three Victories by DU Women’s Team: The University of Denver women’s golf team has compiled quite a record from late last season to early this one. In late April, the Pioneers won their 14th straight conference championship, an eye-opening run even if their conference isn’t particularly strong in women’s golf. Then this fall, DU won two tournaments in 11 days — both in Colorado, at the Golfweek Conference Challenge in Wolcott and the Ron Moore Women’s Intercollegiate in Highlands Ranch. For the record, that made for three wins in the course of five tournaments spanning two seasons. Denver, ranked among the top 25 women’s teams in the nation to complete the fall (along with the University of Colorado), was given a boost in the offseason when 2017 CWGA Player of the Year Mary Weinstein transferred in from the Regis University.
23. Eaton’s March Toward CWGA Record: This year, Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Kim Eaton reached 24 CWGA championship victories by sweeping the Senior Match Play and Senior Stroke Play titles. That leaves her just one shy of Carol Flenniken’s career-record total of 25. After her third sweep of the Senior Match and Senior Stroke in the same year, Eaton earned the CWGA Senior Player of the Year honor for the eighth time. She’s also been the overall CWGA Player of the Year four times since 2004.
22. Variety is Spice of Life for Moore: Another Colorado Golf Hall of Famer, Kent Moore, added to a rather remarkable feat that likely will never be matched. With his victory in the Super-Senior Match Play, Moore (pictured above) now has claimed titles in eight different CGA individual championships. Over the last 44 years, he’s won the 1973 Junior Match Play, the 1986 Amateur, the 1989 Match Play, the 1995 Mid-Amateur, the 2006 Senior Match Play, the 2014 Senior Stroke Play, the 2016 Super-Senior Stroke Play and the 2017 Super-Senior Match Play. READ MORE
21. Longmont’s Nygren Inaugural Putting Champ: Longmont’s Cole Nygren, a pro for just a couple of months, earned a nice paycheck ($15,000) and plenty of publicity with his Halloween victory in the All Pro Championship at the inaugural Major Series of Putting in Las Vegas. The most eye-catching part of the win was the fact that it came against a field that featured PGA Tour veterans Brad Faxon, John Cook, Tommy Armour III and Colt Knost. Nygren, who placed fourth in the CGA Amateur in August to conclude his amateur career, beat Knost, the 2007 U.S. Amateur champion, 3 and 2 in the match-play finale. READ MORE
20. Major Changes for Colorado Cup Matches: The Colorado Cup Matches, a Ryder Cup-style competition between CGA/CWGA amateurs and Colorado PGA professionals, have been held annually since 1971. But there were many significant changes implemented in 2017, which will be the last time the matches are conducted until 2019. With no college golfers playing for the amateur team for the first time, the Colorado PGA (left) prevailed 26-14 in the event, which now features open, senior and women players competing for a single Cup. That result came a year after the pros were swept by the ams. READ MORE
19. More National Recognition for Colorado PGA: Mark Pfingston, the PGA head professional at The Golf Club at Bear Dance, this year was named the PGA of America’s national Merchandiser of the Year for public facilities. With Pfingston’s accomplishment, Colorado PGA members continued their roll of the last decade-plus in receiving national recogntion for their work. In the last 11 years (2007 through ’17), CPGA members — or the Section as a whole — have earned nine national awards from the PGA of America. READ MORE
18. Chalk Up Another Honor for Keffer: In the last decade, Geoff Keffer has become one of the most awarded players from the Colorado PGA in the Section’s history. This year, the Lakewood resident received the Section’s Dow Finsterwald Player of the Year Award for the fourth straight season and for the fifth time in six years. To put that into perspective, only one player has been the Colorado PGA’s Finsterwald Player of the Year more times than Keffer, with two others matching his total. And all of the other three members of the five-timers club have all been inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. Bob Hold owns the record for most CPGA Finsterwald Player of the Year Awards, with seven earned between 1966 and ’74, including six straight starting in ’66. Other five-time Players of the Year, in addition to Keffer, are Vic Kline (1975 to 1981) and Ron Vlosich (1986 to ’91). READ MORE
17. Back to North Dakota for CGA’s Jensen: Dustin Jensen, the CGA’s highly regarded and well-liked managing director of operations, recently accepted a job as associate dean of student engagement at his alma mater, the University of Jamestown in his hometown of Jamestown, North Dakota. Jensen was a key administrator in Colorado golf, particularly playing a pivotal role in the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado getting up and running during its initial years. READ MORE
16. Age No Problem for Schalk: Hailey Schalk (left) of Erie was only 15 years old during the 2017 golf season, but that didn’t keep her from becoming the girls Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado’s Player of the Year. In 2017, Schalk was the first Coloradan to win a title at the prestigious AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior. And in May, she was the first freshman since 2002 to win a girls state high school individual championship in Colorado. In addition, she captured the titles at both of the JGAC majors in which she competed. She also placed 14th individually while playing for Colorado at the Girls Junior America’s Cup. She and Davis Bryant were recently named “Future Famers” by the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.
15. Seniors Rule at CPGA Professional Championship: The Colorado PGA Professional Championship is the top tournament of the year for the Section. But this year’s event, held at Red Sky Golf Club in Wolcott, turned into a showcase for the 50-and-over set as 50-year-old John Ogden prevailed in a playoff over 64-year-old Rick Cole, who was ever so close to becoming the oldest winner of this event — by far. As it was, Ogden earned the $8,000 first prize, then promptly donated half of that total to the Colorado PGA REACH Foundation. READ MORE
14. Timely 59 for Sam Saunders: Former Fort Collins resident Sam Saunders picked a good time for his career round. Saunders, grandson of the late Arnold Palmer, opened the Web.com Tour Championship with a 12-under-par 59 in Atlantic Beach, Fla., where he moved from Fort Collins last year. It was just the seventh round under 60 in the history of the Web.com circuit. More importantly, it led to a second-place finish in the Web Tour Championship, which secured Saunders’ fully-exempt PGA Tour card for 2017-18 after he had lost that status late in the summer.
13. Bunch, Harvanek Voted into Colorado Golf Hall of Fame: Two Coloradans whose service in golf has made an indelible impact were voted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. Jim Bunch of Denver and Danny Harvanek of Littleton will make up the 46th class of the Hall of Fame and will be inducted on May 20 at Sanctuary golf course in Sedalia. Bunch has served in high-powered volunteer roles at the USGA and with the Western Golf Association, including as the chairman of the USGA Rules of Golf Committee, of the WGA and of the Evans Scholars Foundation that awards full tuition and housing college scholarships to high-achieving caddies with limited financial means. Harvanek, a longtime PGA Master Professional in Colorado, has long been touted for his highly-effective instruction work with junior golfers, which helped lay the groundwork for the Colorado PGA Golf in Schools program. READ MORE