Coloradan Becca Huffer, a 2-time winner of Inspirato Colorado Women’s Open, starts with 66 at Green Valley Ranch; local amateurs Emma Bryant and Leigha Devine among those in red figures
By Gary Baines – 6/14/2023
It’s not clear if Becca Huffer literally circled the date on the calendar that the Inspirato Colorado Women’s Open started, but if not, she might just as well have.
That’s the kind of importance the tournament has had for the longtime Colorado resident, who now lives in Monument.
From 2008 through last year, Huffer has won the tournament twice, finished runner-up three times, ninth once, and placed 11th last year.
It’s little wonder why she’s second on the CWO’s all-time money list with $90,151, with an eye on more than doubling that total with her being in contention for the $100,000 first prize this week at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in northeast Denver.
Huffer, who prevailed in 2013 and 2019 at GVR, opened with a bogey-free 6-under-par 66 — her low round in her stellar CWO career. That left her one stroke out of the lead, held by fellow Epson Tour player Amy Lee of Brea, Calif. Joining Huffer at 66 is Haylee Harford of Leavittsburg, Ohio.
“I really like the golf course. It suits my eye,” Huffer said. “It’s just such a fun event. The course is in really great shape for all the rain I know they’ve had here. It’s just a fun course to play. There’s a lot of birdie holes. If you put it in the right spots, there’s low numbers you can shoot.
“I do feel comfy here. I know I can get the ball in the hole. This is a pretty good start for me this year so I’m happy.”
And it could have been even better. She almost chipped in for eagle on No. 12, and she had hard lip-outs on birdie attempts on 15, 16 and 17 on Wednesday. And she did it in the afternoon, where scoring was a bit tougher.
“It would have been nice if those (lipouts) had gone in, but maybe I’ll make them tomorrow,” the 32-year-old Littleton High School graduate said. “I was hitting it pretty good and putting well. Everything was pretty good today.”
Huffer sits No. 20 on the season-long Epson Tour money list — she has a fourth-place finish, eight top-30s and has missed just one cut — and is hoping to move into the top 10 by season end, which would get her her 2024 LPGA Tour card. She played on the LPGA circuit in 2019.
Amy Lee fired a bogey-free 65 to grab the lead on Wednesday.
Lee, like Huffer, went bogey-free on Wednesday, in her case with seven birdies. Not bad for her first competitive round in the Colorado Women’s Open.
“I’m not necessarily surprised, but I’m very happy with it,” the 26-year-old former second-team All-American at Baylor said. “I played very well today. I played the practice round yesterday, but it was rainy and cold and windy. It was a little different today, but I adjusted really well and I hit the ball really well.”
Like every other pro in contention, Lee is hoping a good start lays the foundation for a $100,000 payday this week.
“I could use $100 grand,” she said. “Everyone could use $100 grand.”
Lee has made seven straight cuts on the Epson Tour and finished 21st on Sunday in the Firekeepers Casino Hotel Championship.
“Overall, I felt good coming in (to the CWO) and I feel good about the next couple of days,” she said. “This is my fifth week in a row (competing), so I’m warmed up.”
Emma Bryant (70) was helped on Wednesday by her dad/caddie Matt Bryant, the PGA general manager and director of golf at GVR.
Emma Bryant Feels Right at Home: Emma Bryant slowly answered the question that required some thought — and maybe one that even needed some calculation. As the daughter of the PGA general manager and director of golf at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club (Matt Bryant) and the tournament director for the Inspirato Colorado Open Championships (Julie Bryant), Emma has been around GVR a lot. Make that A LOT.
So when she was asked to estimate how many times she’s played the course, it took her more than a moment before responding.
“Oh gosh. I’d say between 500 and 1,000,” she said.
But, to the best of her recollection, Bryant said she’s never played the course in less than 2-under-par 70, which is what she ended up with in Wednesday’s first round of the Colorado Women’s Open.
With her dad caddying for her, the University of Denver golfer posted one of Wednesday’s three best rounds by an amateur — a three-birdie, one-bogey effort at GVR that left her five strokes out of the overall lead with two rounds remaining.
“I do (feel really comfortable at the course),” the 20-year-old from Aurora said. “But also there’s pressure to play on your home golf course, to execute well. You’re almost expected to know everything. I feel like more times than not I’ve ended up in places I’ve never been before when I play in this event. I think execution is the biggest thing on a home golf course, and I executed well today.
“I kept hitting fairways, kept hitting greens, keeping it as simple as possible. My dad was a big help with that. We just talked through shots a lot. I hit the number as best I can and made a few putts along the way.”
Bryant, who won a 5A girls individual state high school title while a freshman at Eaglecrest, is hoping to be in the mix for low-amateur honors at the CWO come Friday.
“It’s obviously a big goal of mine and I would love to accomplish it, but there are two more rounds to play — a lot of golf left,” she said.
Leigha Devine was 4 under for 10 holes before settling for a 71 on Wednesday.
Leigha Devine, 2-Time CGA Women’s Match Play Champ, Chooses CWO: Amateur Leigha Devine of Windsor had an opportunity this week to accomplish what no golfer has in more than a half-century. Had she won the CGA Women’s Match Play — which concludes on Friday at Columbine Country Club — that would have made it three consecutive titles in the event. The last person to pull off a Women’s Match Play three-peat was Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Marcia Bailey from 1965-67.
But … because the dates for the Colorado Women’s Open were moved this year — and thus conflicted with the Women’s Match Play — Devine opted to compete in the CWO, which features a strong field of pros and amateurs.
“I definitely gave it some consideration,” the Rutgers golfer said of playing in this week’s Women’s Match Play. “It would be cool to have the opportunity to go three in a row. (But) this (Colorado Women’s Open), for my amateur status and ranking, is a better tournament to play in. As I get closer to turning professional (likely in a year), this is just a better option.”
On Wednesday in the opening round of the CWO, Devine put together a solid round of 1-under-par 71, which puts in her on the low-amateur leaderboard. She was actually 4 under through 11 holes, but a water ball off the tee on No. 12 (which led to a double bogey) and a bogey at No. 17 dropped her back a bit.
“I hit a lot of very good shots today, which was nice,” she said. “It’s always good to play well. I had a couple of mishaps/miscalculations. The double on 12 hurt me a little bit. But I had a good day.”
Devine is looking to make the 36-hole cut for the first time in three CWO appearances.
Devine, who tied for fifth individually at the Big Ten Championships in the spring, has one season remaining at Rutgers.
“Every year I’ve felt like I’ve gotten a lot better, so I’m excited to see what I can do next year,” she said.
Former Buff Robyn Choi Continues Strong Play: It wasn’t hard to foresee former University of Colorado golfer Robyn Choi being in contention this week at the Colorado Women’s Open.
After all, not only did she post a top-10 finish at the event last year (eighth place), but she’s recorded top-10 finishes each of the last two weeks on the Epson Tour.
Sure enough, the former LPGA Tour player and two-time U.S. Women’s Open qualifier carded a 4-under-par 68 on Wednesday, leaving her in fourth place, three back of leader Amy Lee.
“I do think I am trending in the right direction right now,” she said. “I had a few good putts today. That helped get the momentum going. But golf is always another day. One day it’s good, one day it’s bad, so you have to be patient out there and wait for your opportunity.”
On Wednesday, Choi chalked up six birdies and two bogeys.
These days, when Choi isn’t traveling to a tour stop, she often stays in Westminster in the house of former CU assistant coach Brent Franklin and his wife Kris.
Like many of the pros in the field this week, Choi is hoping for a shot at the title — and the $100,000 that goes with it.
“I think that’s the big merit for this tournament — the big prize money,” she said. “But when we’re out on the golf course we don’t really think about that too much. It’s just one shot at a time. If it works out, then great. You just hope that the results are good enough.”
Three-time Solheim Cup participant Gerina Mendoza posted a 70 on day 1.
Notable: LPGA Tour veteran Gerina Mendoza, who’s represented the U.S. in the Solheim Cup three times, opened with a 2-under 70 that included five birdies and three bogeys. … Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Jill McGill, the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open champion, carded a 2-over-par 74 on Wednesday. The Cherry Creek High School graduate made three birdies and five bogeys. … Ryan French, the man behind the Monday Q Info Twitter site that has over 140,000 followers, is among the Colorado Women’s Open pro-am competitors for the as he serves as an brand ambassador for Denver-based GOLFTEC, a sponsor of the CWO. … Joining Bryant in the amateur lead after round 1 was Duke golfer Phoebe Brinker of Wilmington, Del., and former Nebraska player Megan Whittaker of Elkhorn, Neb., who matched 70s. … Turkey Creek Golf — pro Ashley Tait of Morrison and Michael Schlepp of Broomfield — leads the pro-am competition by two after a 12-under-par 60 net best ball in which they birdied their first eight holes.
For all the scores from the Colorado Women’s Open, CLICK HERE.
Green Valley Ranch displayed plenty of wildlife on Wednesday (see below):
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 ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com