Colorado native Gunner Wiebe qualifies for British Open as a final-round 66 gives him runner-up finish on DP World Tour; Bernhard Langer surpasses Hale Irwin’s long-held record for career PGA Tour Champions wins
By Gary Baines – 7/2/2023
Gunner Wiebe’s professional golf odyssey took another big turn on Sunday — this one decidedly for the better.
The Colorado native and Kent Denver graduate, who grew up in the Aurora area and won the 2010 CGA Match Play title, had been struggling lately in his first year on the DP World Tour.
But you would have never known it by his performance at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Sir Nick Faldo. The 2010 CGA Player of the Year
shot a 6-under-par 66 in the final round at The Belfry and jumped an amazing 29 spots on the scoreboard on Sunday.
That was almost good enough for the victory; in fact, he held the solo lead not long after finishing his round, more than two hours before the final group did. But Daniel Hillier’s amazing stretch run — where he went eagle-birdie-eagle on holes 15 through 17 — left Wiebe with a tie for second place, by far his best showing on the former European Tour. The performance was worth 278,536 euros.
And, as a huge added bonus, the 34-year-old qualified for his first British Open — and initial major, for that matter. Three players earned spots in the Open, set for July 20-23 at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, the others being Hillier and co-runner-up Oliver Wilson.
“That one (the British Open) in particular is quite special,” Wiebe said. “It’s the major I’ve adored since I was a kid. It was on at 6 o’clock when I woke up in the morning. I’d watch until 2:30 when the coverage ended and I’d go try to hit shots I saw on TV. It’s also the last major that my dad (Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Mark Wiebe) played — in 2014 at the same course. That was his 500th career start (on the PGA Tour).”
Mark Wiebe, of course, won twice on the PGA Tour and five times on PGA Tour Champions, including the 2013 Senior British Open, played 10 years ago this month.
“I knew what I was playing for this week for sure,” Gunner Wiebe added. “To get to go where my dad sort of ended his career in a way, that’s pretty special.”
Amazingly, Wiebe overcame a triple bogey to shoot his 66 on Sunday. He carded an eagle (at No. 3), seven birdies and the triple at No. 8. After previous rounds of 73-71-70, he finished at 8 under par, two behind Hillier.
“I’m really proud of myself,” Wiebe said “I knew I had really good stuff this week. I didn’t quite put it together the first three (days), but today I’m really happy with (not only with) my score, but I’m happy with how I played, for sure.
“I was fortunate today. I like to curve (the ball) both ways already. It was one of those days I had perfect yardages in and I putted really well with a new putter, which was kind of fun. I got to shape the ball (because of windy conditions), which I think I’ve gotten too far away from the past few weeks. It was nice to shape it again. That’s when I’m at my best.”
In his last 15 DP World events before this week, Wiebe had missed 13 cuts. His last six scores on the European circuit prior to this event, his low score was 75. But things turned around in a hurry at The Belfry.
Wiebe has had quite a journey in his pro career.
He played many state opens, events on lower-level tours, and tried Monday qualifying for a lot of PGA and Korn Ferry Tour tournaments. Just last year, the now-Phoenix resident tied for sixth place in the Inspirato Colorado Open, marking his fourth top-six finish in the event since 2010. He placed second overall in the Colorado Open as an amateur 13 years ago.
Over the years, Wiebe has competed in four PGA Tour events — making his first cut last year by placing 47th in the Barbasol Championship — and five Korn Ferry tournaments. He was a regular on PGA Tour Latinoamerica from 2013-15, competing in 35 events in those three years and recording three top-10 finishes.
But a nasty arm injury sustained about seven years ago derailed his dream of playing on a big-time tour — at least for the time being.
In 2016 over Memorial Day weekend just south of Tijuana, Mexico, Wiebe suffered a potentially life-threatening injury that turned out to be “only” very serious. While moving luggage into a vacation home, Wiebe didn’t realize that a sliding-glass door had been closed. He walked right through it, and the single-pane, non-tempered glass shattered. In addition to cutting Wiebe’s hand — through not too severely — the underside of his upper right arm was sliced very, very deeply.
After the stitches were in for 13 days, Wiebe developed a staph infection. Following an extended rehab, Wiebe finally began making full swings of a golf club six weeks after the accident. But while he competed on and off for a while longer in 2016, it wasn’t the same.
“I never thought I’d play again,” Wiebe said in 2021. “I was very confident that that was it and I would always live with frustration and a little bit of resentment of not being able to leave on my terms.”
After a stint working in finance, Wiebe spent three years as an assistant pro at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles. During that time as a club pro, Wiebe won the national title in the 2020 National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship after claiming victory in both the 2019 and ’20 Southern California Assistant PGA Professional Championships.
That national title helped whet Wiebe’s appetite to return to playing full time again, and he did just that starting in the late spring of 2021.
After coming up short in Korn Ferry Tour Q-school both in 2021 and ’22, Wiebe came up big in DP World Q-school late last summer and fall. He finished 20th in the second stage in Alicante, Spain on Nov. 6, and placed 13th in the final stage shortly thereafter. He advanced from stage 1 with a sixth-place showing in England in early September.
It should be noted that in addition to Wiebe finishing second at the British Masters, former University of Colorado golfer Yannik Paul tied for eighth for the 11th top-10 of his DP World Tour career since the fall of 2021. Paul has been battling back issues recently, but still posted scores of 68-71-74-70 in England.
For all the scores from the British Masters, CLICK HERE.
Elsewhere in tour golf on Sunday:
Bernhard Langer, at 65 years and 10 months, became the oldest winner on PGA Tour Champions — again.
— Bernhard Langer Surpasses Hale Irwin’s Senior Win Total: Hale Irwin held outright or shared the record for career PGA Tour Champions victories for more than 22 years.
Now it’s Bernhard Langer’s turn.
Langer won his second U.S. Senior Open — and his 12th senior major championship overall — on Sunday at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis.
Relevant to Irwin, that gives Langer his 46th PGA Tour Champions victory, one more than the 45 Irwin accumulated from 1995-2007. Irwin, a Boulder High School and University of Colorado graduate who won three U.S. Opens, surpassed Lee Trevino’s then-record 29 senior victories in early 2001.
While Irwin won his 45th Champions event at age 61, Langer chalked up No. 46 less than two months shy of turning 66. At the U.S. Senior Open, Langer left little doubt, winning by two strokes despite bogeying the last three holes — after rounds of 71-68-68-70.
“It feels awesome,” Langer said. “It’s been a long time coming, but I’m very, very happy. I never thought it would happen at a U.S. Senior Open, but I’m very thrilled that the record of 46 wins happened this week.”
“I really felt at peace today. I was in the zone.”
At 65 and 10 months, Langer broke his own record for oldest winner on the Champions circuit.
For all the scores from the U.S. Senior Open, CLICK HERE.
— Wonderful Weekend Lifts Tom Whitney to Another Top-3 KFT Finish: Former Air Force Academy golfer Tom Whitney had a stellar weekend — shooting scores of 63-61 — to finish third on Sunday in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Memorial Health Championship in Springfield, Ill.
Whitney birdied his final six holes of the tournament — and 10 overall on Sunday — as he went bogey-free on the weekend. He ended up at 24 under par, two strokes behind champion Paul Barjon.
It marks Whitney’s third top-three finish of the KFT season and the fifth top-six. He’s now No. 7 on the season-long Korn Ferry points standings. At season’s end, the top 30 on that list will earn PGA Tour cards for 2024.
For all the scores from Springfield, 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 ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com