Where the all-time greatest local players rank on career money lists for major tours
by Gary Baines
When it comes to sheer candidness, there are few players who have won on the PGA Tour who are more forthright than Jonathan Kaye.
The former University of Colorado golfer seldom hesitates to voice his true opinions — good, bad or otherwise.
Last year, in the week in which he won his second CoBank Colorado Open title, Kaye was talking about the subject of money and purses on the PGA Tour. And he said something that was both illuminating and candid.
“I passed Jack Nicklaus (in career PGA Tour earnings) my third year on the Tour,” Kaye said. “There’s no way I should ever pass Jack Nicklaus.”
With the Masters on tap this week, we decided to take a look at where the most prominent players in the history of Colorado golf stack up in a statistic seldom mentioned anymore: career money leaders on the major professional tours.
It’s not surprising that the PGA Tour competitors in the Tiger Woods era have received a disproportionate boost in money earnings compared to their earlier counterparts. What was eye-opening was just how much an effect that had.
For instance, regarding Nicklaus and Kaye, the Golden Bear may be the greatest player of all time, with 18 majors among his 73 PGA Tour victories. Kaye, meanwhile, has won twice in his PGA Tour career.
Yet look at the PGA Tour career money list and Nicklaus is No. 271 ($5.734 million) and Kaye is No. 164 ($10.585 million, just ahead of Bernhard Langer). Many people debate whether Nicklaus or Woods is the greatest golfer ever, but on the PGA Tour’s career money list the Bear is a pauper compared to Tiger, who has won more than 19 times as much money ($111.183 million).
Hale Irwin (pictured above), a Boulder High School and University of Colorado graduate, is unquestionably the most successful golfer the Centennial State has produced from an early age, with three U.S. Open victories among his 20 PGA Tour wins. But you’d never know it by looking at all-time PGA Tour money won. The World Golf Hall of Famer checks in at No. 263 ($5.966 million).
Another former CU golfer who won the U.S. Open is just a little ahead of Irwin. Steve Jones, whose eight-win career included the 1996 U.S. Open title, is No. 249 ($6.519 million).
As for other prominent players who grew up in Colorado and have had extensive PGA Tour careers, Brandt Jobe is 195th in career money at $9 million and one-time winner Kevin Stadler is 180th at $9.698 million. Both played their high school golf at Kent Denver.
Others with strong Colorado connections in the top 200 are Evergreen resident Craig Stadler (Kevin’s dad), winner of 13 PGA Tour events including a Masters (174th at $10.022 million); former Colorado State University golfer Martin Laird, a three-time PGA Tour champion (91st at $16.155 million); and Colorado resident David Duval, winner of 13 PGA Tour events including a British Open (78th at $18.984 million).
And, the top PGA Tour career money winner with major Colorado ties is Aspen resident Justin Leonard, who owns a dozen Tour wins including a British Open (22nd at $33.885 million).
Other PGA Tour winners with strong Colorado ties made less than $1 million in their PGA Tour careers, including Paul Runyan (28 wins), Ed Dudley (15 wins), Dow Finsterwald (11 wins), Dale Douglass (3 wins), Bob Byman (1 win) and Fred Wampler (1 win).
Dave Hill made $1.13 million in a career that included 13 victories, and Mark Wiebe earned $4.314 million in a career that featured two wins.
On the LPGA Tour, part-time Colorado resident and World Golf Hall of Famer Hollis Stacy (left, with Annika Sorenstam) earned $2.58 million in winning 18 times on the LPGA circuit, including four majors. Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Jill McGill earned $2.342 million, though she didn’t win a tournament on that circuit. World Golf Hall of Famer Babe Zaharias, a Denver-area resident in the 1940s, won 41 times on the LPGA Tour but earned just $66,237. Sharon Miller, like Zaharias and McGill a member of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, won $164,274 on the LPGA circuit, on which she posted two victories. Lauren Howe racked up $236,084 in career LPGA money after winning once. Sorenstam, who won the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, leads the LPGA career money list, with $22.573 million.
As for PGA Tour Champions, Irwin was a check-cashing machine for many years. The former Buff, winner of a career-record 45 PGA Tour Champions events, has won a remarkable $27.089 million on the 50-and-over circuit, putting him No. 1 all-time.
Also ranking among the top 100 in what was once know as the Senior Tour are Craig Stadler (35th at $8.979 million with nine wins); Douglass (56th at $7.019 million with 11 wins), Wiebe (73rd at $5.69 million with five wins) and R.W. Eaks (91st at $4.693 million with four wins).