Colorado Golf Hall of Fame names Connor Jones, Jennifer Kupcho, Jill McGill, Matt Schalk and Yannik Paul Golf Persons of the Year, while Madeline Bante and Kyle Leydon earn ‘Future Famer’ honors
By Gary Baines – 10/28/2022
The Colorado Golf Hall of Fame will celebrate an extraordinary year in its history in 2023 — its 50th anniversary — and, fittingly, it will pay tribute to an extraordinary group of golfers.
In addition to inducting new members, the Hall of Fame presents annual awards, including Golf Person of the Year to someone who truly has stood out with his or her accomplishments during a given calendar year.
But because there were so many unique and exceptional feats by players with strong Colorado ties in 2022, the Hall of Fame made the unusual decision to name five people Golf Persons of the Year. They’ll all be celebrated during a year in which the Hall of Fame not only will turn 50 but will open its new museum at the five-star Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs.
The Golf Persons of the Year for 2022 will include a golfer who produced one of the best amateur seasons by a Colorado male in the 21st century, a Colorado native who won an LPGA major championship, a Colorado Golf Hall of Famer who claimed her third USGA national title, a Colorado club professional who won a PGA of America national championship, and a part-time Coloradan who earned his inaugural victory in a DP World Tour (aka European Tour) event this month.
In addition, the Hall of Fame named two “Future Famers”, one boy and one girl, who stood out in 2022.
The Golf Persons of the Year and the Future Famers will be honored on a date to be determined — in the first half of 2023 — at The Broadmoor, where the Hall of Fame’s museum is expected to be completed in the late winter or early spring.
Among the Hall of Fame’s major 2023 events related to its 50th anniversary and new museum, the Hall of Fame golf tournament will be held on July 6, while its 50th anniversary gala is set for Nov. 18, with both events set for The Broadmoor.
Because of the focus on the milestone anniversary and the opening of the new museum, the CGHOF will not induct any new Hall of Famers in 2023. However, annual award winners are being honored and celebrated.
Here are some of the top 2022 accomplishments for each of the award winners:
GOLF PERSONS OF THE YEAR
Connor Jones of Westminster, Colorado State University golfer
— Won both of the Colorado Golf Association men’s major championships, the Match Play and the Amateur.
— Became just the third player in history to win both of the aforementioned CGA championships, plus be the low amateur in the Colorado Open, in a single calendar year, joining Colin Prater (2020) and Gary Longfellow, who won the Colorado Open outright in 1974. Jones finished third overall in this year’s Inspirato Colorado Open, setting an amateur scoring record in the process.
— Finished runner-up in a playoff at the Trans-Mississippi — part of the national Elite Amateur Series — as Denver Country Club hosted the event.
— Has pulled off the remarkable feat of winning individual titles at three of his last five college tournaments, prevailing at the Mountain West Conference championship, the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational and the TPC Colorado Collegiate.
— Is now ranked No. 176 among all the male amateur golfers in the world. Among men’s college players, he’s No. 5 in the nation according to Golfstat and No. 17 according to Golfweek.
Colorado native Jennifer Kupcho, former Westminster resident and a Jefferson Academy graduate
— Recorded the first three victories of her LPGA Tour career. She’s the only player on the LPGA Tour this season to have won three times or more in 2022. She’s earned more than $2 million in official prize money this year.
— The first of her victories came at the Chevron Championship, one of the women’s major championships.
— Also won the Meijer LPGA Classic and the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational team event with Lizette Salas.
— Sits No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Colorado native and Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Jill McGill, a Cherry Creek High School graduate
— Won the U.S. Senior Women’s Open, arguably the most prestigious tournament in women’s senior golf.
— With the victory, she joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, Joanne Carner and Carol Semple Thompson as winners of three different USGA championship titles, in McGill’s case having captured the 1993 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 1994 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.
— The former LPGA Tour veteran also made the cut in the Senior LPGA Championship, finishing 36th.
Matt Schalk of Erie, the PGA general manager at Colorado National Golf Club
— Won the national PGA Senior Professional Championship out of a field of 264, qualifying for the 2023 Senior PGA Championship — a senior major — in the process. He’s the first Coloradan since Bill Loeffler in 2007 to win the national PGA Senior Pro Championship.
— Won the Colorado PGA Senior Professional Championship.
— At age 51, made the cut in the Inspirato Colorado Open, finishing 57th.
— Tied for fourth in the open-age Colorado PGA Professional Championship, the Section’s most prestigious tournament of the year.
Yannik Paul, part-time Colorado resident and former University of Colorado golfer
— Won the Mallorca Golf Open for his first DP World Tour victory. (The DP World Tour was formerly known as the European Tour.)
— Owns six top-10 finishes on the DP World circuit as a rookie this season.
— Sits No. 139 in the World Golf Rankings.
Madeline Bante of Englewood, a junior at St. Mary’s Academy
— Earned the USGA-AJGA Presidents’ Leadership Award, a national honor. The award goes to “one male and one female junior golfer who demonstrate leadership, character and community service through their involvement with the Leadership Links program, a joint initiative founded by the USGA and AJGA in 2005 to further develop junior golfers through volunteerism.” She became the first Coloradan since 2015 to earn the honor.
— Volunteers with the First Tee-Colorado Rocky Mountains, helping teach kids how to play golf and the life principles the First Tee espouses. She also raised more than $14,000 last year alone for the First Tee-Colorado Rocky Mountains and the ACE Grant. That amount will help fund college scholarships for teenagers, provide tuition for First Tee programming and help those in need to compete in AJGA tournaments.
— A member of the Hale Irwin Player Program at CommonGround Golf Course, Bante won the 3A girls state high school individual title and led St. Mary’s Academy to its second straight team championship.
Kyle Leydon of Commerce City, a senior at Brighton High School
— Finished first on the Colorado PGA’s boys junior golf points list for 2022.
— Won the Colorado PGA Junior Invitational — a junior major in the state.
— Leydon, a member of the First Tee of Green Valley Ranch, tied for seventh place in the First Tee National Championship. In 2021, he competed in the PURE Insurance Championship, a PGA Tour Champions event in which First Tee kids are paired with senior tour professionals.
— Posted top-10 individual finishes in his final two 5A boys state high school tournaments.
— Represented Colorado on its four-player Junior America’s Cup team.
— Has qualified for the upcoming Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship.
— Like Bante, Leydon is part of the Hale Irwin Player Program at CommonGround GC.