What’s new and different in 2018 for Colorado’s local tour players and events?
by Gary Baines
Colorado’s tour golfer community has undergone quite a few changes over the last few years. You could say it was a matter of people coming and going, but it was mainly going.
— Sam Saunders, grandson of Arnold Palmer, moved from Fort Collins to Atlantic Beach, Fla., in 2016. Saunders grew up in Florida.
— David Duval moved last year from Cherry Hills Village, also to Atlantic Beach. Duval has lived most of his life in northeast Florida.
— And Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Mark Wiebe departed Aurora in 2017 to become the director of instruction at San Jose Country Club. Wiebe played college golf at San Jose State.
— Meanwhile, 1997 British Open champion Justin Leonard moved in, to Aspen from Dallas, in 2015. Leonard, winner of a dozen PGA Tour titles, played in just one PGA Tour event in 2017. He serves on the broadcast team for the Golf Channel.
As the first full-field events of 2018 are held this week on the world’s top golf tours, we’ll continue with that theme and explore what’s new and different with the major tour players who have significant Colorado ties.
On the Mend: Two Colorado golfers who have had plenty of starts on the PGA Tour are on major medical extensions from the Tour.
Kevin Stadler, a part-time Denver resident, hasn’t competed on the world’s top golf circuit since the summer of 2015 due to a stress fracture in his left hand that he suffered late in 2014. Stadler, who withdrew after one round of a Web.com Tour event in July, has 26 starts remaining on his PGA Tour medical extension to earn $717,890, the amount he’ll need to keep his PGA Tour card.
In November, Stadler was among 18 new inductees into the University of Southern California Hall of Fame. Stadler, who counts a Colorado Open and two CGA Match Plays among his victories, won the 2014 Waste Management Phoenix Open on the PGA Tour.
Shane Bertsch of Parker, meanwhile, has two events left to earn $597,069 on his PGA Tour medical extension, which was due to a now-healed shoulder injury. The Denver native made two cuts in nine PGA Tour starts in 2017, and four cuts in 10 Web.com tournaments last year. He’s entered in the Web.com Tour’s Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, which begins on Saturday.
New on the Web.com Tour: Wyndham Clark, who lived in Colorado for all of his pre-college years, played in one Web.com Tour event in his first year as a pro in 2017 (along with seven tournaments on the PGA Tour). But in 2018 — starting Saturday in the Bahamas — Clark will be an official Web.com Tour member after finishing 23rd in the final stage of Q-school. After wrapping up his amateur career with three individual college wins in 2017 — including the Pac-12 Conference Championship in Boulder — the former University of Oregon golfer turned pro last June. Since then, he finished as high as 17th on the PGA Tour and 23rd on the Web.com Tour.
Meanwhile, Denver native Mark Hubbard is no stranger to the Web.com Tour, though he’s spent most of the last three seasons on the PGA Tour. But the former Colorado junior player of the year lost his PGA Tour card last year and failed to regain it through Q-school, so he’s back to the Web circuit in 2017, starting this weekend in the Bahamas. Hubbard has played in 34 Web events, posting seven top-10 finishes.
Also in the Bahamas field this week is Jim Knous of Englewood, who is back for his second year on the Web circuit, along with Bertsch and former Golden resident Andrew Svoboda.
U.S. Senior Open in Colorado Awaits: The 2018 PGA Tour Champions season begins Jan. 18 with the Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii. That’s the first official event of a 2018 schedule that is highlighted by the U.S. Senior Open that The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs will host June 28-July 1.
World Golf Hall of Famer Hale Irwin, the Boulder High School and University of Colorado graduate who has won a record 45 times on PGA Tour Champions, is among a half-dozen PGA Tour Champions players with major Colorado ties. But the one who figures to make the most noise at The Broadmoor, based on recent seasons, is Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Brandt Jobe. Jobe (pictured) won on PGA Tour Champions for the first time in 2017 and finished third in the U.S. Senior Open after a third-round 62. He ended up seventh on the 2017 PGA Tour Champions money list with almost $1.4 million.
Players with significant Colorado ties entered in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship include Irwin, Jobe, Craig Stadler, Esteban Toledo and Wiebe.
LPGA Tour Absence: No Colorado locals will compete regularly on the LPGA Tour this season as former CU golfer Jenny Coleman lost her card in 2017 after making just one cut in 10 events. Coleman and her twin sister, Kristin, will likely play mainly on the Symetra Tour in 2018.
In Europe: On the European Tour, former CU golfer Sebastian Heisele has returned for his second straight season after improving his status by finishing 18th in the final stage of Q-school. He posted third- and fourth-place finishes last season on the top European circuit. And former University of Denver golfer Espen Kofstad has returned to action after missing 10 months following wrist surgery. He’s missed his first two cuts this wraparound season.
On the Ladies European Tour, returning are former DU golfers Eleanor Givens and Tonje Daffinrud, who finished 70th and 73rd, respectively, on the 2017 LET money list.