Final Day Awaits

Texan Jason Schultz, a one-time Korn Ferry Tour winner who went on to make the semis of the 2019 U.S. Mid-Am at Colorado Golf Club, vaults into Inspirato Colorado Senior Open lead with 64; Coloradan Matt Schalk shares 2nd place, 4 back, going into final round

By Gary Baines – 8/24/2023

When Matt Schalk was interviewed after round 2 of the Inspirato Colorado Senior Open, he spoke about how he planned to be more aggressive in Friday’s final round at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in northeast Denver.

“I think now I’ll probably take a little more chances tomorrow. I’ll probably try to go all in and see what happens,” the 52-year-old PGA general manager at Colorado National Golf Club said early Thursday afternoon. “I’ll try to chase (a victory) all the way until the end. I’m not chasing a paycheck. I’ve already got one of those.”

At that point, the Erie resident sat one stroke out the lead. But given how one-time Korn Ferry Tour winner Jason Schultz of Dallas finished later in the day, Schalk may have to gear up his aggressiveness a notch if he hopes to land the CSO title and the $20,000 that goes with it.

Schultz, who has gone from amateur to pro to amateur to pro in his golf career, ended up building a four-stroke lead through two rounds. That was thanks to an 8-under-par 64 on Thursday that is believed to match the tournament’s single-round scoring record. Among the top-10 finishers each year at the CSO, only Greg Bruckner (2015) and Charley Yandell (2004) have carded 64s in the Colorado Senior Open.

With the course softer and more receptive on Thursday, Schultz made eight birdies and went bogey-free despite taking a penalty stroke on his 18th hole (No. 9 at GVR), where his tee shot went into the penalty area that cuts across the fairway. That left him at 12-under-par overall, three shy of the 54-hole tournament record relative to par.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t play a practice round — he lost in a playoff in qualifying for the Ally Challenge PGA Tour Champions event in Michigan, then flew to Denver on Tuesday night on the eve of the tournament. He had a vague recollection of the course from playing in the Colorado Open years ago, but that was about it.

“Yesterday (Wednesday’s first round, where he shot 68 thanks to two eagles) was kind of a practice round/figure-out-the-course round,” Schultz said. “So it was like, ‘How far is the ball going? Where do I hit it?’ And the greens were ridiculous (firm). Today felt a lot easier because it was softer. Still, I played really well.”

Asked about the lead he’ll take into Friday, Schultz said, “You never know. I feel good. I feel good about the way I’m playing. That’s all I really can control. I’m looking forward to it. It’s just fun to be in the position”

Schultz, winner of the 2005 Chattanooga Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour who played 53 events on the PGA Tour, is no stranger to being in the running for significant golf titles in Colorado. When he was still an amateur, he not only competed in the 2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Colorado Golf Club, but he advanced to the semifinals, where he lost to Joseph Deraney, 1 up.

But he had the itch to return to pro status when he turned 50 in March, thus becoming eligible for senior golf. Since then, he’s played in three PGA Tour Champions events, finishing ninth in the Principal Charity Classic in early June. Schultz also has a synthetic turf company in Dallas. 

Asked why he wanted to turn pro again, Schultz said, “I have an entirely different outlook on it. I changed some things. I rededicated myself. It’s not like it’s the end of the world for me anymore since I’m still working and still have other avenues to produce income. And I did a good job staying in shape. It’s good to see some positive results.”

Matt Schalk of Erie is one of Schultz’s closest pursuers heading into the last round.

While Schalk and Brad Adamonis of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., are four strokes back of a formidable player — each after shooting a 69 on Thursday — that’s still within striking distance. Schalk won the national Senior PGA Professional Championship and two Colorado Senior PGA Professional Championships in the last 13 months. And Adamonis is a veteran of 74 PGA Tour events and 205 on the Korn Ferry Tour, with one KFT victory to his credit.

Should Schalk prevail on Friday, he’d become the first Colorado resident to win the Colorado Senior Open since Doug Rohrbaugh in 2013.

“It would mean a lot” to end that drought, Schalk said. “If you look at the fields now, what (Pat) Hamill (who resurrected the Colorado Open championships) has done by elevating the events from the women’s to the regular to the senior, you see the quality of fields that are coming. There’s still some great players in Colorado, but you look at the field and it’s just fantastic: former Tour players or even current Tour players in some cases. So I think it would mean a lot (to win the Colorado Senior Open because) it would definitely be one of the stronger fields for this event. That’s important. Also, it would verify to me that I can still play with some of the better players in the country for sure.”

Schalk has been on a hot streak for a while, but in the last month or so his cause has been helped by a putter change — from an old-time Bulls Eye to a TaylorMade armlock. When some Korn Ferry Tour players were in town for last month’s Ascendant tournament at TPC Colorado — and were playing and practicing at Colorado National — Schalk asked them about the armlock method and how it works, then gave it a try and was impressed enough to switch over.

“I feel really good about the way I’m putting,” he said. “I’m a lot steadier. I was putting really well with that Bulls Eye too, but it was still a little bit questionable on some of the shorter ones under pressure. This one definitely feels a little better” in that respect.

On Thursday, Schalk birdied five of his last eight holes — with a bogey mixed in — en route to a 69. But the birdies weren’t all the work of his putter as he chipped in for birdie on No. 3 (his 12th hole on Thursday) from 40 feet the day after three-putting at the same hole.

“I got it going a little on my back nine, so that was good,” he said. “I’ve been putting great; I just couldn’t get any to fall” early in the round.

Looking ahead to Friday’s final round, Schalk said, “I hope it’s rainy, I hope it’s cold, I hope it’s all of the above. The worse it is, the better for me. I think being a Colorado kid, you get used to that.”

Brad Adamonis (left) and Colorado amateur Michael Harrington (right) are both in the top 10 after two days.

Adamonis, a 50-year-old from Ponte Vedra, Fla., is hoping to win his second state senior open in the last couple of months, having captured the Connecticut Senior Open in early July. On Thursday, he made six birdies in shooting 69, with the highlight being a 25-foot chip-in on No. 3, matching what Schalk had done there.

“I relish the opportunity to have a chance to have a great round tomorrow and maybe win the tournament,” Adamonis said. “I put myself in good position, so I look forward to being able to execute some of those shots under pressure.”

In all, just three players are within seven strokes of Schultz going into the final round, with Tim Weinhart of Alpharetta, Ga., in fourth place, at 6 under — and no one at 5 under.

The only Coloradan — besides Schalk — in the top 10 through two days is amateur Michael Harrington of Colorado Springs. 

Harrington, the 2014 CGA Player of the Year, has been battling right elbow issues, which had limited him to just a couple of rounds in the month leading up to the Colorado Senior Open, But after a first-round 75, he recorded a five-birdie, no-bogey 67 on Thursday despite missing a 4-foot birdie attempt on his final hole. That leaves him at 2 under par overall and in a share of ninth place.

Harrington leads the amateur competition by a whopping seven strokes going into Friday. The only other amateur to make the 36-hole cut was Sean Crowley of Littleton (74-75).

Jason Brandt of Arvada is in 14th place after 36 holes.

Notable: One of the most impressive turnarounds from day 1 to day 2 came from Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Ron Vlosich of Lakewood, who backed up a 79 with a seven-birdie 66. … The 50 players who were 5 over par through 36 holes or better made the 36-hole cut. Among those who didn’t advance were former NFL quarterback Tommy Maddox (13 over), former U.S. Senator Mark Udall (19 over), PGA Tour winner Trevor Dodds (9 over) and two-time champion Greg Bruckner (9 over).. … Two players who didn’t make the cut, Barry Milstead of Castle Rock and Dave DeSantis of Salt Lake City, made  eagles on the difficult par-4 10th hole on Thursday. … Two golfers who made the cut on the number were defending champion Guy Boros and three-time PGA Tour winner Gary Hallberg, both of whom went 78-71. … Leading the super-senior competition for players 60 and older is Steve Jurgensen of Houston (70-72), who stands three strokes ahead of Vlosich, Barry Conser and Kevin Dillen. … With a rainy forecast for Friday, tee times for the final round will start at 7 a.m., with the leaders (Schultz, Schalk and Adamonis) going off at 8:20.

For all the scores from the Colorado Senior Open, CLICK HERE.

A family of ducks kept a close eye on golfers on the ninth hole at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club.

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. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates