Colorado Proud

Denver native Wyndham Clark, who unlike many of his fellow PGA Tour players is no stranger to Castle Pines GC, sets sights on possible ‘dream come true’ victory at BMW Championship this summer; course will be set up at over 8,100 yards for the tournament, a record length for a PGA Tour event

By Gary Baines – 6/25/2024

CASTLE ROCK — Wyndham Clark has played PGA Tour events in many of the states in the country, from California to Connecticut, Hawaii to Florida, Michigan to Texas. Internationally, he’s teed it up in Tour events in the British Isles, Bermuda, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean.

One place he’s never competed in a PGA Tour tournament, ironically, is the state in which he spent the first 18 years of his life — as well as considerable time since then: Colorado.

Barring injury or something else unforeseen, that will be rectified come August — Aug. 22-25, to be precise — when the Denver native tees it up at Castle Pines Golf Club for the BMW Championship.

Given that the Valor Christian grad, who grew up a short car ride from Castle Pines, currently sits No. 5 in the FedExCup standings, and that the top 50 will qualify for the BMW Championship, Clark is a shoo-in to be in the field. And, make no mistake, while he’ll be happy to compete in front of friends and family for his first time as a pro, he has much bigger things in mind.

“I’m so excited to be able to play in front of the home crowd,” Clark said Tuesday in an appearance at the BMW Championship media day at Castle Pines. “It’s very rare to be able to play in your home state. … It would be a dream come true — I’ve been praying a lot about it and manifesting that maybe I would be the champion.”

Clark doing a TV interview on Tuesday behind the 18th green at Castle Pines GC.

That would be a perfect script for a player who in the last 14 months has won a U.S. Open, two other events on the PGA Tour, climbed as high as No. 3 in the world ranking (he’s currently fifth), represented the U.S. in the Ryder Cup, just made the U.S. men’s Olympic golf team that will play in early August in Paris, and just surpassed $25 million in career PGA Tour earnings. Oh, and he’ll be inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame on Dec. 1, at the age of 30. 

And though golf can be a fickle game — even for PGA Tour players — things seem to be setting up well for Clark to contend for the title at Castle Pines. After all, he was raised at altitude (Castle Pines sits at roughly 6,300 feet, which makes for a big adjustment for most PGA Tour players) and has plenty of experience at a CPGC course that few of his fellow BMW Championship contestants will have seen, much less competed at, before tournament week. Clark — who cut his teeth at Cherry Hills Country Club, where his family had a membership starting when he was 10 — estimates he’s played Castle Pines 25-30 times, which may give him a significant advantage in that department.

“If my game is in a good spot and I feel good about my game, then I think I really have an advantage,” Clark told on Tuesday. “Then I really do know how the ball flies at altitude. I know this course really well. So I’m really hoping my game is there so I can use that advantage.”

The BMW Championship trophy.

Given that the last time a PGA Tour event was contested at Castle Pines was in 2006 — the final year of The International’s 21-year run — Clark estimates the number of fellow Tour players with any experience at the course going into tournament week is very small.

“I bet you, of the 50 who qualify (for the BMW Championship), it’s less than five or 10 guys (who have seen the course before),” he said. “There will be hardly any guys who have been here. And I’d say of those 50, maybe only one or two have actually played The International. There’s not too many who are still playing at the high level that they played at The International. But I think they’re all going to love it. I’m sure they’re excited.”

While Clark hasn’t competed in Colorado as a PGA Tour player, it should be noted he certainly did plenty of times as an amateur. He won two state high school individual titles while at Valor, a CGA Junior Stroke Play, a CGA Amateur at age 16, and a Pac-12 individual championship at Boulder Country Club in 2017, just before turning pro.

Clark was no stranger to PGA Tour events in the state growing up as he estimates he attended The International three times at Castle Pines, along with the 2014 BMW Championship at Cherry Hills. During The International, he’d often position himself on the ninth hole at Castle Pines, closely observing the course management of Tour players and how they handled themselves in general.

“And of course as a young kid you see the guys bomb the ball and hit it so far,” he said. “You just go, ‘Wow that’s so cool. I hope I can do that some day.’ I remember all that. And I remember sharing it with my dad (Randall). We always came to it together. That was really fun for us. It was a great memory.”

Record Course Length for PGA Tour: George Solich, the chairman and president of Castle Pines Golf Club, said Tuesday that the course will be set up at about 8,130 yards for the BMW Championship. That will make Castle Pines the longest course utilized on the PGA Tour since 1983, when such distances began being routinely recorded.

The current record is 7,876 yards for the 2021 PGA Championship, held at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C.

But given the 6,000-foot-plus altitude at Castle Pines, the effective yardage at the BMW Championship will be pretty ordinary by PGA Tour standards, given that most players will hit the ball 10 or 15 percent further than they do at sea level.

“It could be anywhere from a 10 percent to a 20 percent increase in yardage with the altitude out here, depending on the time of day, weather conditions, etc.,” said Vince Pellegrino, the senior vice president for tournaments for the Western Golf Association, which oversees the BMW Championship. “You take an 8,200-yard golf course, it’s probably playing right where they play week-in and week-out on the PGA Tour. We want to make sure it’s a really tough, fair test of golf for the best players in the world. Playing it at 8,200 and at a par-72 … You also have to remember, this is entertainment. We like to see birdies, we like to see eagles. The fans appreciate that. It’s a tough golf course, and regardless, the cream will rise to the top this week.”

The PGA Tour is in charge of course setup for the BMW Championship, Pellegrino note, but he gave some indication of how things might look at Castle Pines come late August.

“You want the golf course to peak come mid- to late August to be ready for the championship,” he said. “They’ll probably get the rough at 4 inches, which is pretty standard on the PGA Tour. As far as green speeds, I’m guessing they’re probably going to be in the 12 range out here (based on the Stimpmeter). What (the Tour and the course superintendent) want to do is make sure they have fast, firm conditions. They’ve got an incredible superintendent out here that will make the golf course shine during championship week.”

Given his experience at Castle Pines and being a PGA Tour player, Clark was asked his best guess as to what kind of score might win the BMW Championship come August. (It should be noted here that The International had a different scoring format back in the day, utilizing the modified Stableford, where a birdie and a bogey were worth more than two pars.) 

“It’s tough because there is a lot of trouble and you hit a lot of elevated tee shots, so there are opportunities to make big numbers here,” Clark said. “Obviously, the altitude — we’re all going to hit it far. And there are four par-5s; there’s going to be a lot of birdies. It just depends. If it’s firm, I think you could have a 10-under winner (for four rounds). It it rains and it’s not too difficult … the best players in the world, (the winners) seem to be shooting around 20 under every week (on the PGA Tour). So I’d say between 10 and 20 under.”

All for a Good Cause: Besides being the second of three annual FedExCup Playoff events on the PGA Tour, the BMW Championship is a huge factor in the ongoing success and growth of the Evans Scholarship for caddies. The scholarship provides full tuition and housing to high-achieving youth caddies — and students — of strong character who demonstrate significant financial need. All the net proceeds from the BMW Championship — more than $50 million since 2007 — go to the Evans Scholars Foundation.

And the Evans Scholarship has a significant local aspect to it as one of the E.S. houses has been located at the University of Colorado in Boulder since the 1960s. The Evans Scholarship has been one of the flagship programs for the CGA during all that time, while the WGA administers the scholarship on a nationwide basis.

Both Duffy Solich, this year’s BMW Championship tournament chairman, and his younger brother George, the chairman and president at Castle Pines GC, are CU Evans Scholar alums, having caddied at The Broadmoor in the 1970s then being on scholarship in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.

“The BMW Championship is always a thrilling week of incredible golf,” Duffy Solich said Tuesday. “Its lasting impact is the difference it makes in the lives of youth caddies through the funding of the Evans Scholarship.”

Indeed, the Evans Scholarship is estimated to be worth an average of more than $125,000 if renewed for four years. Nowadays, there are 548 CU Evans Scholar alums. This past school year, there were 57 caddies living in the E.S. house in Boulder. One of them, Logan Byler, was on hand at Castle Pines on Tuesday, along with fellow Valor Christian alum Clark. Byler began caddying at Meridian Golf Club as part of the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy, named for George and Duffy Solich, who have provided much support — financial and otherwise — for the initiative. Byler in recent years has moved on to looping at Castle Pines Golf Club. He graduated from CU with a degree in architecture last month.

Nationwide, about 1,130 Evans Scholars were enrolled at 24 universities last school year, with 340 new scholarships recently awarded for the 2024-25 academic year. The goal is to have 1,500 caddies on the scholarship by 2030.

With the Evans Scholarship being the tournament beneficiary, it’s little wonder why the BMW Championship has been named the PGA Tour’s Tournament of the Year a record five times, including in 2014 when it was held at Cherry Hills.

The look around the eighth green at Castle Pines Golf Club bears little resemblance to how things appeared there during the days of The International.

Significant Course Changes Since Days of The International: Golf fans from Colorado — along with those watching on TV locally and nationwide come August — will see in several respects a different Castle Pines Golf Club course than they might have during The International from 1986 through 2006.

That’s because much tweaking of the course has been done in the last eight years or so by Jack Nicklaus, the original designer of Castle Pines GC, at the behest of the club leadership.

Noting that Castle Pines — and International — founder Jack Vickers established quite a legacy for the club, George Solich said, “Our goal is to achieve that great stature once again. The community’s hunger for professional golf has generated support and excitement that has been nothing short of remarkable. It’s an understatement to say the PGA Tour has been missed here in Colorado (just one PGA Tour event has been held in the state since 2006). By every measure — from hospitality to ticket sales to volunteer registration and community engagement, the support for this championship is really unprecedented. 

“We set records (in 2014 at Cherry Hills) and we’ll be setting records this year.”

Among the changes to the Castle Pines Golf Club are 10 holes — five on the front nine and five on the back — that are “essentially redesigned,” George Solich said. All the 77 bunkers on the course have been redesigned and rebuilt, as have all 10 water features. All greens and tee complexes have undergone similar makeovers, along with the irrigation system. 

Through the process, more than 600 yards has been added to the length the championship tee boxes can stretch.

“We’ve continued to refine the golf course for the modern game,” Solich said. “We’ve reshaped this golf course completely. What I like to say is we started with a Picasso, and we just made that Picasso better. We couldn’t have done it without Jack Nicklaus. He’s been here a couple of times a year for literally the last eight years straight. He takes great pride in what we’ve collectively created here at Castle Pines.

“The improvements — paired with our passion for excellence, quality at every turn and a unique and warm and welcoming service — ensure we are ready to once again host the best players on the PGA Tour.”

Fans who remember The International course might notice the most changes to holes 2, 3, 5, 8 and 16 at Castle Pines.

The clubhouse at Castle Pines Golf Club, along with the BMW Championship banner on the left side.

Quotable: Clark, on what it’s like to be at Castle Pines Golf Club and to play the course: “The experience here is unlike anywhere else. The minute you come through the gates, the service, hitting Pro-V (balls) on the range, that first tee shot looking down at Pikes Peak, the quality of the golf course, the milkshakes in the locker room afterwards, it’s honestly second to none.”

Quotable II: Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway, who’s been a member at Castle Pines GC since 1989: “I’m really excited that (PGA Tour) golf’s coming back to Colorado. I know Wyndham and the top 50 players are going to love playing this place. It’s in as good a shape as it’s been in a long, long, long time.”

Longtime Castle Pines GC member John Elway speaks about the significance of the BMW Championship coming to the club.

Notable: Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Keith Schneider, the longtime PGA general manager at Castle Pines Golf Club and a club employee for 43 years, said he will be retiring from his position at year’s end. But not before he was recently given an honorary membership at Castle Pines GC by the powers that be at the club. … Kids age 15 and under will be admitted free to the BMW Championship when accompanied by a ticket-bearing adult (limit two juniors per ticketed adult). … Also, active-duty military, along with military retirees, active reserve and veterans can also be admitted free to the tournament after obtaining passes at … The allotment of 2,200 volunteers needed for the BMW Championship was filled in a matter of days, which was a record for the tournament, according to Pellegrino. … Tournament organizers said grounds tickets for Saturday’s third round of the BMW Championship (Aug. 24) have sold out. “It’s been incredible response from the golf fans of Colorado,” Pellegrino said. “To sell out Saturday this far in advance of the championship is unprecedented and a true indication of how excited the fans are here in Denver.” Other tickets for the BMW Championship can be obtained by CLICKING HERE. … A free junior golf clinic — featuring PGA Tour players and Rockies mascot Dinger — will be held on the Castle Pines putting course on Wednesday, Aug. 21 — the day before championship play begins.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. The University of Colorado Evans Scholar alum was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates