Extra Incentive?

Coloradan Jason Preeo will try to join his former golfer at Valor Christian, 2023 national champ Wyndham Clark, in U.S. Open field; in all, close to 20 players with strong Colorado ties set to compete in final qualifying

By Gary Baines – 5/17/2024

The year 2010 was a memorable one for Coloradan Jason Preeo, both personally as a competitive golfer and as the high school golf coach for a kid named Wyndham Clark.

It was that year that Preeo successfully negotiated both stages of U.S. Open qualifying — the second one coming at Columbine Country Club in the last U.S. Open Sectional qualifier ever held in Colorado. Not only that but he made the cut in the Open — he was in 16th place through 36 holes (75-70) — before shooting 82-84 on the weekend to finish 82nd at Pebble Beach. Then in the fall, coach Preeo’s Valor squad won a second straight 4A state high school team title. 

Meanwhile, that summer, one of Preeo’s golfers at Valor Christian when he coached there, Clark, won the most prestigious amateur stroke-play tournament in Colorado, the CGA Amateur. The particularly notable thing about that is that Clark did so as a 16-year-old, becoming the event’s youngest winner since Bob Byman in 1971. Clark would win two state high school individual titles (2009 and ’11), the latter by going 64-64 at Pelican Lakes and prevailing by eight strokes.

Fast forward to today, and things seemingly have come full circle. Clark has won three times on the PGA Tour in the last 13 months, most notably capturing the title in the 2023 U.S. Open. Meanwhile, Preeo has returned to U.S. Open final qualifying on several more occasions, including this year. But given that Clark will defend his title in the championship next month, the possibility of joining his former Valor player in the field would be quite a feat for Preeo.

“Not many guys have their high school coaches make it to a U.S. Open,” Clark recently told “And then he took it a step further and made the cut. … It’s amazing when someone so close to you does something so amazing. It really gave him a lot of credibility when he was trying to tell (the team) stuff. I remember that.

“It would be pretty awesome if he made it here (to Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina for the Open, set for June 13-16). “When I was in high school, he would have been the one to give me tips, so if he gets here maybe I’ll give him some tips.”

Preeo, now 45 and a longtime instructor at the MetaGolf Learning Center in Englewood, realizes the odds may be stacked against him — and most other non-tour players — successfully advancing to the U.S. Open through the upcoming 36-hole final qualifiers. But he’ll tee it up on June 3 in Rockville, Md., hoping for the best.

“I’ve been to enough (final qualifiers) now to know there’s still a long way to go, but it’s nice to have another shot at it,” Preeo said on the U.S. Open website. “ As cool as it was to play at Pebble (Beach) and make the cut, the really poor weekend left a bit of a sour taste overall. So I’d obviously love another crack at it. Unfortunately, time’s not exactly on my side anymore.”

Preeo earned a spot in final qualifying by shooting a 2-under-par 69 and sharing medalist honors in his local qualifier at Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins.

Coincidentally, another one of Preeo’s golfers at Valor — and a one-time teammate of Clark there — also advanced to final qualifying from Collindale after matching Preeo’s 69: Jake Staiano. 

Preeo and Staiano will be two of 20 or more golfers with significant Colorado ties who will be in the U.S. Open final qualifying fields. In all, 36-hole final qualifiers will be held at 13 sites around the world — either on Monday or on June 3. The USGA hasn’t yet released the fields for all the sites.

Here are the players in final qualifying with significant Colorado connections: (Note: It’s expected there may be some additions to this list — for other players who were exempt from local qualifying.)

Colorado native Jim Knous, a former Colorado School of Mines golfer, who will play Monday in Dallas 

Sam Saunders of Fort Collins

Former Golden resident Andy Svoboda

Jason Preeo of Littleton

Derek Fribbs of Aurora, a former CU golfer

Jake Staiano of Englewood, a former CSU golfer

AJ Ott of Fort Collins, a former CSU golfer

Amateur Connor Jones of Westminster, a former CSU golfer 

Amateur Jimmy Makloski of Pueblo, a former CSU golfer

Davis Bryant of Aurora, a former CSU golfer

Former DU golfer John Sand

Amateur Hunter Swanson of Denver, a CU golfer

Jack Castiglia of Lakewood, a former UNC golfer

Amateur Colin Prater of Colorado Springs, a former UCCS golfer

Cade Kilkenny of Centennial

Amateur and DU golfer Jake Dozer

Former Coloradan and Air Force Academy golfer Tom Whitney, who will play Monday in Dallas

Former CU golfer Jeremy Paul, who will play Monday in Dallas

Former Coloradan and Air Force Academy golfer Kyle Westmoreland, who will play Monday in Dallas

Colorado resident Scott Vincent, a regular on LIV Golf, who will play Monday in Japan.

Also teeing it up at final qualifying will be two-time Inspirato Colorado Senior Open champion Harry Rudolph.

Clark obviously is exempt for the U.S. Open itself. Among those joining him in that category are the winner (Nick Dunlap) and the runner-up (Neal Shipley) in the 2023 U.S. Amateur that Cherry Hills Country Club hosted.

Here are the sites for the upcoming U.S. Open final qualifiers:


Dallas Athletic Club (Gold & Blue Courses)
Hino Golf Club (King Course), Shiga Prefecture, Japan
Walton Heath Golf Club (New and Old Courses), Surrey, England


Lake Merced Golf Club, Daly City, Calif.
The Bear’s Club, Jupiter, Fla.
The Golf Club of Georgia, Alpharetta
Woodmont Country Club (North Course), Rockville, Md.
Canoe Brook Country Club (North & South Courses), Summit, N.J.
Duke University Golf Club, Durham, N.C.
Ohio State University Golf Club (Scarlet Course) & Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club, Columbus, Ohio
Springfield (Ohio) Country Club
Pronghorn Resort (Nicklaus Course), Bend, Ore.
Cherry Hill Club, Ridgeway, Ontario, Canada

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