Bill Bisdorf, one of just 3 players who have won at least 3 Colorado Opens, passes away
by Gary Baines
For the fourth time since late May, the Colorado golf community lost one of its most notable members as Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Bill Bisdorf passed away last Monday (Sept. 19) in Denver at the age of 87.
Ironically, the man who was born exactly four months before Arnold Palmer in 1929 died just six days before The King did on Sunday.
In winning three of the first four Colorado Opens at Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen, Bisdorf is one of just three players who have captured that title at least three times, along with Dave Hill (four wins) and Bill Loeffler (three).
Bisdorf (pictured) was runner-up to Bob Pratt in the 1966 Colorado Open, meaning his first four finishes in the tournament were first, first, second, first. He was also second in 1975 (placing just in front of Peter Jacobsen), third in 1971 and fifth in ’72.
Add it up and that’s seven top-five finishes in the first dozen Colorado Opens. He also won the the 1959 and ’66 Colorado Section PGA Championships, the 1960 Wyoming Open and the 1965 Mile High Open.
Ronn Spargur, a former longtime executive director of the Colorado Open, noted that Rocky Mountain News golf writer Dave Nelson — who’s also in the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame — had a nickname for Bisdorf back in his prime.
“He called him ‘the blacksmith’ because (Bisdorf) could hit the ball two or three miles,” Spargur said. “He was really strong.”
Indeed, it’s said that Bisdorf out-drove Jack Nicklaus during practice leading up to the 1967 PGA Championship at Columbine Country Club.
Not surprisingly, Bisdorf was named the Colorado PGA’s Player of the Year following his first two Colorado Open victories (1964 and ’65). He also claimed the championship in 1967. Interestingly, Bisdorf didn’t receive any official prize money for winning the first Colorado Open as there was no purse that year. And it’s notable that the runner-up that first year, amateur Jim English, also passed away in the summer of 2016. In ’65 and ’67, Bisdorf won $1,000 and $1,200, respectively, for his Colorado Open victories.
Bisdorf competed in 46 events on the PGA Tour from 1956 to ’71, including a career-high 14 in 1957. He posted two top-10 finishes, including a third place in 1956.
Bisdorf played 16 major championships over the years — 10 PGA Championships and six U.S. Opens. He finished tied for 20th — along with Raymond Floyd — in the 1967 PGA Championship at Columbine.
And after the creation of the Senior Tour — now known as PGA Tour Champions — Bisdorf competed in nine events on that circuit from 1980 to ’86, recording three top-25 finishes.
A member of the PGA of America since 1955, Bisdorf served as the head professional at Green Gables Country Club from 1959 through ’67. He later owned Denver Capitol Golf, where golfers could receive year-round lessons, then was head professional at Twilight Golf Course from 1979 to ’89.
Bisdorf was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 1989. Since May, fellow Hall of Famers Will Nicholson Jr., English and Ed Nosewicz have also passed away.
Norma Bisdorf, Bill’s wife, said there will be no services, but half of his ashes will be placed at Fort Logan Cemetary. Bill Bisdorf served in the Navy and played on Naval Championship teams along with Billy Casper and Gene Littler during the early 1950s.
Bisdorf is survived by Norma, five children, five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.