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Runyan Elected to Colo. Golf Hall of Fame

2-time PGA Champ to be inducted with Wiebe, Heyen, Doyle

by Gary Baines


Judy Bell, Hale Irwin and Babe Zaharias are soon going to have company.

Only three current members of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame also have been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame -- Bell, Irwin and Zaharias -- but the late Paul Runyan (pictured) will join the ranks in a few months.

Runyan, a two-time PGA Championship winner and renowned instructor who spent most of the 1970s and the early ’80s in Colorado, was one of four people elected to the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame on Thursday. Runyan’s fellow enshrinees will be PGA/Champions Tour player Mark Wiebe and longtime active members of the Colorado PGA Kyle Heyen and Bob Doyle.

The four will be inducted at a dinner on June 12 at Denver Country Club. The Hall of Fame tournament will be held the following day.

Four other people also will be honored at DCC. Country Club of Colorado director of instruction Ann Finke, a recent winner of a national Junior Golf Leader award from the PGA of America, will be the Golf Person of the Year. Two recently retired mainstays of Colorado golf will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards -- former USGA director Maggie Giesenhagen and former Aurora manager of golf Dennis Lyon, who will accept the national USGA Green Section Award on Friday. And retired Air Force officer Vic Kregel, who had an outstanding playing career internationally (including winning a European Amateur Championship) and coached the golf teams at the Air Force Academy and the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, will be given the Distinguished Service Award.

Runyan won 29 events on the PGA Tour from 1930 to ’41, including PGA Championships in 1934 and ’38. In the latter, the 5-7, 125-pound Runyan -- whose nickname was “Little Poison” -- defeated Sam Snead 8 and 7 in the 36-hole finals, using his superb short game to more than make up for his lack of power. Later, Snead paid Runyan quite a compliment, saying, “I don’t suppose anyone ever got more out of their golf game than Paul Runyan. He could get the ball up and down from a manhole.”

Runyan would also go on to win Senior PGA Championships in 1961 and ’62. But he was likewise very well known for his teaching ability, especially in regards to the short game. One of the clubs at which he taught -- and was director of golf -- was Green Gables Country Club in Denver. There, he instructed everyone from casual golfers to PGA Tour players from 1972 into the early ’80s.

While Runyan was at Green Gables, the club hosted LPGA Tour events five times. And in 1977, Runyan won a national honor from the PGA of America, the Horton Smith Award, given for developing and improving educational opportunities for PGA professionals.

Runyan was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1990 and passed away in 2002 at age 93.

Wiebe came to Colorado a couple of years after Runyan moved from the state. And in 1986 -- the same year he won the second of his two PGA Tour titles -- Wiebe claimed the Colorado Open championship. He also placed second in the Open the next year.

Wiebe competed in more International PGA Tour events than any other player, teeing it up in 19 of the 21 tournaments in Castle Rock and posting two top-four finishes there. After struggling with his game in the early 2000s, the Aurora resident started his Champions Tour career with a bang when he won his debut on the circuit in 2007. He added a second title in the spring of 2008.

In Colorado, Wiebe conducts an annual charity tournament that benefits the non-profit Adam’s Camp, which organizes therapeutic and recreational programs for kids with developmental disabilities and their families.

Wiebe’s son, Gunner, was the CGA’s Les Fowler Player of the Year in 2010.

Heyen has been the head professional at Hiwan Golf Club for more than a quarter-century -- dating back to when the course hosted the Colorado Open championship -- and he’s been an invaluable member of the Colorado PGA. A year ago, he became the first member of the Section to win the national PGA of America President’s Plaque that is awarded for “extraordinary and exemplary” contributions in player development.

Heyen is a former president of the Colorado PGA and has won nine Section awards during his career, but he’s not just active in the PGA on a statewide level. Nationally, he serves on the PGA Board of Control, which reviews and rules on membership issues.

Heyen was also instrumental in making Hiwan a 2009 national finalist for top facility in the player-development category for the Get Golf Ready program.

Doyle is a Master PGA Professional and was recently a candidate for the position of national Secretary for the PGA of America. Like Heyen, Doyle is a former president of the Section and has served on numerous national PGA committees in recent years. He’s twice been named the Section’s Golf Professional of the Year, and has also won the Vic Kline Award for leadership.

When Doyle operated the Riverdale golf courses in Brighton, the Dunes hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 1993 and a Nike Tour event in 1996 and ’97. Riverdale is also home to the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame exhibits.

In addition, Doyle was instrumental in the founding of the Colorado PGA Foundation.