Despite abbreviated schedule, 2020 has been best year since 2013 collectively for local major tour players, with wins by Laird, Bertsch being the top highlights
By Gary Baines – 12/2/2020
The Mayakoba Golf Classic, set for Thursday through Sunday in Mexico, marks the final official PGA Tour event of 2020 — and the latest in a calendar year since 1971 that an official tournament on Tour has been conducted.
The LPGA Tour won’t hold its final competition of 2020 — the CME Group Tour Championship — until Dec. 17-20. But many other top tours around the world have already put a wrap on the year, including PGA Tour Champions, the Korn Ferry Tour, Ladies European Tour and the Symetra Tour.
That makes this a fitting time to look back on how players with strong Colorado connections have fared at the highest levels of golf in 2020.
How well have locals done, collectively speaking?
A very good case could be made that, despite the 2020 tour schedules being significantly curtailed by Covid-19 safety concerns, this marks the biggest year, victory-wise, for locals since 2013.
That was the year that former Colorado State University golfer Martin Laird won a PGA Tour event and Coloradans Mark Wiebe and Craig Stadler claimed titles on PGA Tour Champions. In fact, Wiebe won twice that year, including the Senior British Open. In addition, former Castle Pines resident Esteban Toledo also won twice on the Champions circuit.
This year, Colorado residents landed victories on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions, and finished runner-up on both the LPGA Tour and PGA Tour.
Here are a few of the biggest highlights for players with close Colorado ties competing on the world’s top tours:
— Martin Laird not only moved to the Denver area in 2020, but just a matter of months later he won his first PGA Tour title in 7 1/2 years. The 37-year-old Scotsman prevailed in October in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, earning the fourth victory in his PGA Tour career. It was his second win in Las Vegas, where he also claimed a title in 2009. This time, he won in a three-man playoff, sinking a 23-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole. Laird was in the field as a sponsor exemption after having recorded just one top-10 in the previous 14 months and undergoing knee surgery in June. From the time the PGA Tour shut down due to Covid-19 in mid-March until now, Laird has gone from being ranked 323rd in the world to No. 89.
— Parker resident Shane Bertsch pulled off an improbable victory in August on PGA Tour Champions. Competing in just his second Champions event ever, Bertsch took down one of the top senior players of all time, World Golf Hall of Famer Bernhard Langer, along with Kenny Perry and Glen Day, in a playoff to claim the title in the Charles Schwab Series at Bass Pro Shops Big Cedar Lodge. Bertsch, a past winner of the Colorado Open who never earned a title on the PGA Tour, prevailed with an exclamation point, sinking a 15-foot eagle putt on the first hole of a playoff. “I’ve always had a hard time saying what my most special moment in golf is, but without a doubt it was that putt on the first playoff hole,” said Bertsch, who earned his Champions card by claiming medalist honors in Q-school a year ago.
— Denver native Wyndham Clark, who won a CGA Amateur and a Pac-12 Conference individual title at Boulder Country Club, came ever so close to landing his first PGA Tour victory early last month — one that would have come with a two-year Tour exemption and berths in the 2021 Masters and PGA Championship. But after leading for much of the final round of the Bermuda Championship, Clark had to settle for second place after Brian Gay birdied the 18th hole in regulation and in a playoff to prevail. Clark, a Valor Christian graduate, shot a 65 that Sunday, but missed birdie tries of 10 feet and 7 feet on that same 18th hole.
— Another Colorado-born player, Jennifer Kupcho, likewise posted a second-place finish, in her case matching her best showing ever on the LPGA Tour. In early October at the Shoprite LPGA Classic in New Jersey, the Jefferson Academy graduate made a run at the title but fell two short of champion Mel Reid, who earned her first LPGA Tour event. Kupcho, who won for the first time as a pro at the CoBank Colorado Women’s Open in June, went 65-65-68 the final three rounds in New Jersey. The next week, Kupcho finished seventh at an LPGA major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
All told, here are the top-10 finishes by locals on major world tours in 2020:
Denver-area resident and former CSU golfer Martin Laird: first and sixth place
Colorado native Wyndham Clark: second place
Colorado native Mark Hubbard: ninth place
Colorado native Jennifer Kupcho: second and seventh place
PGA Tour Champions
Parker resident Shane Bertsch: first place
Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Brandt Jobe: fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth place
Denver-area resident Chris DiMarco: fourth and fifth place
Former University of Colorado golfer Sebastian Heisele: fourth place
Korn Ferry Tour
Colorado native George Cunningham: third, fourth and sixth place
Former Air Force Academy golfer Tom Whitney: seventh place
Ladies European Tour
Former University of Denver golfer Ellie Givens: sixth place
Former CU golfer Robyn Choi: sixth place in LPGA co-sanctioned event in Australia; second, fifth and ninth place on Symetra Tour