Fond Memories in Colorado

William Mouw, who a year ago won the prestigious Trans-Miss at Denver Country Club, continues strong start to his pro career with 69 at Ascendant at TPC Colorado; Nicholas Lindheim and Ryan McCormick lead way with 66s

By Gary Baines – 7/13/2023

Almost exactly a year ago, William Mouw was in Colorado — at Denver Country Club, to be precise — putting the final touches on a victory at one of the top amateur events in the country, the Trans-Miss.

This week, Mouw is back in the Centennial State hoping for more of that Mile High magic.

And so far, Colorado is treating him pretty well once again. The former Pepperdine golfer is competing in his fifth Korn Ferry Tour event after turning pro a month and a half ago. And on Thursday, he shot a 3-under-par 69 in the tougher afternoon conditions to share 27th place at The Ascendant presented by Blue at TPC Colorado.

“I feel very comfortable” in Colorado, he said. “My caddie and I have done a good job getting the numbers right (at elevation). Having played here and having success in the past in Denver and at elevation, getting to see this course I feel very comfortable out here. It’s beautiful. I love this (area). It’s going to be a fun week.”

Mouw, who finished sixth in PGA Tour University in 2023 to earn KFT status, seems to have adjusted seamlessly to tour golf after wrapping up his college days and turning pro at the first of June. He’s made the cut in all four of his Korn Ferry Tour starts, placing in the top 25 three times. And on the PGA Tour last week, he tied for 13th in the John Deere Classic.

“I’m very pleased” with how the transition has gone, he said. “Pro golf, I enjoy it. It suits my game a little more. It’s individual and you get to decide your own schedule. I enjoyed college golf, but I really love my job now — being a professional.

“I’m just taking it one week at a time. Trying to pace myself. I’ve been on the road for a few weeks here. I’m enjoying it — get to see some pretty cool cities and just trying to play some good golf along the way.”

Former Air Force Academy golfer Tom Whitney opened with a 71 on Thursday.

2 Share the Lead: Nicholas Lindheim, a 38-year-old who has two Korn Ferry Tour wins to his credit (one each in 2016 and ’17), and 31-year-old Ryan McCormick grabbed the 18-hole lead on Thursday with a 6-under-par 66s. McCormick chalked up eight birdies and Lindheim seven.

Lindheim, in his final back-related “rehab” start before returning to the PGA Tour, has three top-10 finishes in four starts this season on the Korn Ferry Tour, with a third place and two eighths.

“I’m excited as long as the body holds up,” he said. “I’m excited just because I’ve been playing well. I just need the body to cooperate and I think hopefully good things are ahead.”

McCormick birdied his final hole of the day — No. 9 — from about 25 feet to tie Lindheim. McCormick is savoring all the beauty the course has to offer, notably the picturesque Rocky Mountains that serve as a backdrop for the event.

“It’s beautiful out here,” he said. “It’s just a nice place to be. I love playing at elevation. It’s just nice to hit it high and straight and far. And this place is probably one of our better events of the year. Everybody comes out here to support the event, it’s a great atmosphere, a great golf course, it’s in great shape. Yeah, I look forward to coming here.

“I’ve always played well out here in Colorado. Maybe it’s just nicer for me to walk around and after I hit a bad shot. You go look at the mountains and it’s not so bad. I don’t know, but I always seem to find my game out here.”

McCormick has two top-10 finishes on his record this season on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Notable: A total of 41 players shot in the 60s in the opening round at the 8,000-plus yard layout. … Play was stopped for 1 hour and 10 minutes late in the afternoon due to lightning in the area. … A cut — to the low 65 and ties — will be made after Friday’s second round.

Sam Saunders of Fort Collins was 5 under par for his first 13 holes on Thursday before posting a 71.

Fort Collins’ Sam Saunders Falters After Fast Start: At one point on Thursday morning, the competitor who lives less than a 30-minute drive from TPC Colorado was 5 under par through 13 holes and tied for second place in The Ascendant.

But things spiraled the wrong way from there, and Fort Collins resident Sam Saunders had to settle for a 1-under-par 71 and was left thinking what might have been. 

“I thought I played really well today. I feel like I should have shot 6 or 7 under,” said Saunders, grandson of the late Arnold Palmer.

Losing four strokes to par in the last five holes went something like this: missed-green bogey on No. 14; a three-putt par on the par-5 15th; a mental error that led to a double bogey on the par-3 16th; and a bogey on the 18th after missing the fairway by “an inch.”

But Saunders can take some solace in this: This entire season on the Korn Ferry Tour, he’s shot in the 60s in the first round just three times, but he’s still managed three top-10 finishes, including a playoff loss in Panama after opening with a 74.

“I’ve gotten off to terrible starts all year long in the first round — even in the tournaments I’ve played well,” the former PGA Tour regular said. “I’m happy to at least be in a reasonable place. And I know I’m playing well, so hopefully I’ll play great  the rest of the week and give myself a chance on Sunday.

“That’s frustrating, that’s golf,” Saunders said of his rough finish. “At this point I’ve done this long enough, I don’t worry about it. It’s a matter of trusting my game plan.”

Saunders came into the week 34th in the season-long Korn Ferry Tour points list, with the top 30 at the end of the season earning PGA Tour cards.

“I’ve got 10 tournaments left and plan on playing them all,” he said. “I’m 34th on the points list and there’s 30 cards (awarded) for the PGA Tour next year — and I very much want to have one of those, so I’m going to play all out.”

Local Scores: Here are the scores for the players with strong Colorado ties competing in The Ascendant this week:

59. Fort Collins resident Sam Saunders 71

59. Former CU golfer Jeremy Paul 71

59. Former Air Force Academy golfer Tom Whitney 71

59. Former Cheyenne resident and onetime CU golfer Josh Creel 71

113. Valor Christian and CSU grad Jake Staiano 74

147. Denver native and former CU golfer Jonathan Kaye 77

For all the scores from The Ascendant presented by Blue, CLICK HERE.

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