Ever-evolving CGA Women’s Golf Summit still going strong after all these years; cultivation has continued at Denver Botanic Gardens in recent years 

By Gary Baines – 2/24/2024

Phyllis Jensen served on the CWGA or CGA board of directors for more than 15 years, and she’s long been a volunteer mainstay at women’s tournaments and qualifiers the organizations have run.

Suffice it to say Jensen is a big supporter of women’s golf, and she’s been a fixture almost every year since 2007 at the annual event now known as the CGA Women’s Golf Summit.

When the CGA and the CWGA integrated into a single organization in early 2018, Jensen had one big concern — that women’s golf could get lost in the shuffle. But the fact that what was once known as the CWGA Annual Meeting is still going strong six years after the integration is heartening to her.

“I like the fact that we’re still doing it,” she said on Saturday during the 2024 Women’s Golf Summit at the Denver Botanic Gardens. “That was one of my big fears was that when we integrated, this would fall by the wayside. But it has not. So I’m really glad.”

When the CGA and the CWGA merged, Jensen made it a point to make her feelings known to Janene Guzowski, who became president of the CGA in early 2019. 

“I told her my big thing was, ‘I don’t want to lose the women,’” Jensen recalled. “I don’t want us to change everything to fit the men’s (part of the organization). I’ve worked both the women’s tournaments and the men’s tournaments (as a volunteer) — and ours are a lot more fun. They’re very competitive, but there’s a different vibe around ours than there is around the men’s. The men are not as social. The women, after the round, they all get together and talk about the round and about other things.”

Attendees exit a Rules of Golf session Saturday at the Women’s Summit.

But Jensen and others are happy women are a priority for the CGA, with the Women’s Summit being one tangible aspect of that.

“We’re a social group and I think this gets our season off to a great start,” Jensen noted regarding the Summit. “I think it’s a great kickoff for the golf season for the women. And it singles us out (within) the CGA. It’s a women’s event and all the staff is here. It’s nice to have everybody together for the women.”

Saturday’s Women’s Summit drew a significant number of women — along with a few men — to the Botanic Gardens. Erin Gangloff, chief marketing officer for the CGA and the person who spearheads organizational efforts for the Women’s Summit, said about 125 people came in person on Saturday, with roughly another 60 participating online. Approximately 80 women’s clubs from around the state were represented.

Saturday’s Summit featured various educational sessions — including Rules of Golf in match play, updates on the World Handicap System, a club roundtable where representatives could discuss best practices, tips  about how frame of mind can help your golf game, and the use of Golf Genius software for tournament management. And the day culminated — after lunch — with a fireside chat with two Western Golf Association staffers about the WGA’s BMW Championship PGA Tour playoff event coming to Castle Pines Golf Club in August, and how that benefits the Evans Scholarship for caddies in a big way.

“We had a really good turnout both in person and virtually” for the Women’s Summit, Gangloff said. “It’s a wonderful day for women to get together from different leagues to share information and ideas. That’s what keeps the leagues going. It’s an opportunity for them to hear maybe they’re in the same boat on some things — or creative new ideas. I also think it’s great for them to hear about the Evans Scholarship, about the BMW Championship, and also other things like Golf Genius and match-play rules. It’s a day we always look forward to each year.”

CGA staffers Maddie Kern (left) and Guereca make a point during the World Handicap System update.

Ed Mate, the longtime executive director of the CGA, was among the large number of CGA staffers on hand Saturday.

Holding the Women’s Summit annually “is critical,” Mate said. “When we looked at our number of (female) members, they dipped during Covid. Everything else was going up and the women’s numbers were going down. Why was that? The women, who are the caretakers and the backbone of our families, were taking care of families instead of playing golf. Dad might have been off playing golf but mom wasn’t. It’s really cool to see our numbers starting to go back up. We had a strong uptick in women’s members last year and I’m hoping that continues. 

“Having a day like today is not going to solve everything, but it’s vital. I joked with Eva (Mate’s wife), ‘You don’t even need to plan content (for the Summit). Just invite (the women) here, and they’re going to figure it out. All the socializing … it’s just fun. They were going to have a great day even if we didn’t put on a program.”

Indeed, while all the educational sessions and the keynote fireside chat were all popular with attendees, the social aspect of re-engaging with fellow golfers after — in many cases — not seeing them much over the winter may have been as big an attraction for the event.

“I love the Summit,” said Bunny Ambrose, a longtime CWGA/CGA regular who has attended the event almost every year over the last two decades. “I like it because there’s new information. I get to see people I haven’t seen in months and months and months. And I just love the group at the CGA. They’re such a good group. I come to learn and I come to see people.”

Attendees range from low handicappers to high — and everything in between. For instance, among the low handicappers who came on Saturday — and attends the event on a fairly regular basis — is Laurie Steenrod, a past winner of both the CGA Women’s Match Play and the Senior Match Play, among many other golf accomplishments. Steenrod has served continuously on the CWGA, then the CGA, board of directors from 2011 to the present. She’s long been a go-to resource regarding rules and such with the women’s club at Saddle Rock Golf Course in Aurora.

“It was excellent as usual,” Steenrod said of the Summit. “I didn’t think I was interested in match play rules, but it turns out I was. … Some of it is collaborating, meeting other people or making yourself available to meet with other people. And you see that some other groups — leagues and such — have some of the same frustrations and challenges that you might have.”

And Steenrod appreciates that there’s no lack of lighthearted moments included in the educational sessions at the Summit.

“What strikes me is the humor that these presenters input into their sessions because it’s important to play for fun,” she said. “You know the history of golf — stodgy and upper-crust and yada yada yada. Now, we get to input the humor and it comes through and it’s important. … The humor and jokes they put in there is just attractive, I think. All the power to them — and thank you to them for doing that.”

Lindsay Dresser (left) and Christina Leonhard (center) from the WGA chat with the CGA’s Erin Gangloff about the BMW Championship and the Evans Scholarship for caddies.

The fireside chat that focused on the BMW Championship and the Evans Scholars proved popular and timely. After all, the BMW (Aug. 22-25 at Castle Pines GC) marks the first PGA Tour event to come to Colorado since the same event was held at Cherry Hills Country Club in 2014. 

And the fact that all the net proceeds from the event — $5.5 million was the number last year, with $50 million since the Western Open became the BMW Championship in 2007 — go to the Evans Scholarship for caddies hits close to home in Colorado. After all, 57 caddies, mostly from the Centennial State, are currently on an Evans Scholarship at the University of Colorado. And each scholarship is worth an average of more than $125,000 if renewed for four years, which is hardly chump change.

The CGA partners with the WGA regarding support for the Evans Scholarship in Colorado, and three current CGA staffers are alums of the E.S. program: Mate, managing director of club and facility services Aaron Guereca and manager of social media and video content Kayla Kerns. Mate and Guereca went to CU and Kerns to the University of Wisconsin.

“My heart swells with gratitude and a profound realization that I’m a living testament to the extraordinary journey encapsulated by the Evans Scholars Foundation,” Kerns said in a speech during the fireside chat. “From the sun-drenched fairways at Big Foot Country Club to the cobblestone streets of Geneva, Switzerland — where I was able to study abroad — and now as a social media manager for the CGA, I have traversed an entire spectrum of the Evans Scholars journey — from caddie to college to career.

“The Evans Scholarship wasn’t just financial support. It was the key to unlock doors to a world of knowledge and possibility.”

Said Mate: “The idea of the BMW (fireside chat) was to kind of give the ladies an idea of what goes on behind the scenes. I expected a little Evans Scholars, but I’m so happy that they really showcased what it’s all about. It was really cool.”

A Rules of Golf session conducted by the CGA’s George Petrie (left) and Ashley Harrell.

Regarding the BMW Championship itself, it should be quite the attraction as not only will it be contested at picturesque Castle Pines Golf Club, but 50 of the world’s top players will comprise the field as it’s the penultimate event in the FedExCup Playoffs.

Christina Leonhard, the WGA’s director of ticket sales and marketing, said that 25,000-30,000 spectators will be expected daily during the tournament rounds Aug. 22-25. 

“We’re really excited to be bringing (the BMW Championship) here to Colorado,” Leonhard said. “It’s been a number of years (without the PGA Tour coming to the Centennial State), and we’re well aware of that. We’re excited to be bringing it to Castle Pines.

“We knew there was excitement and we kept hearing that from (George and Duffy Solich) and the other folks at Castle Pines — what the appetite was for professional golf here. Week over week as we see those sales come in, it continues to blow our mind, especially in these winter months. That $5.5 million from last year that was record setting for us, we certainly have ambitions to surpass that this year.”

Another measure of the BMW Championship excitement is that the WGA staffers reported that within a week of volunteer opportunities for the tournament opening in mid-October, the 2,000 people needed for the event were set. The CGA coordinated that volunteer recruitment launch.

“We sold out volunteer opportunities; not that they needed our help,” Mate said, adding that while the CGA doesn’t have an official role regarding the tournament, it’s focusing on “doing everything we can to promote the tournament. “Duffy (Solich), the general chairman, is coming to all our board meetings this year to make sure we’re really doing a good job keeping him aware of what we’re doing, and vice-versa.” 

The CGA and the Colorado Golf Foundation will also have a small skybox behind the 14th hole at Castle Pines during tournament week. “We’re going to use that during the tournament to thank donors (and) maybe give some of our caddies a chance to see the tournament. That will be really fun,” Mate said.

The BMW Championship — or its predecessor, the Western Open — is the oldest non-major on the PGA Tour, debuting in 1899. Five times since 2008 the BMW Championship has been named PGA Tour Tournament of the Year, including in 2014 when Cherry Hills Country Club hosted the event.

A session on Golf Genius on Saturday was led by Justin Scott (left).

Putting on a Clinic: Numerous CGA Women’s Clinics once again are planned for this year. While the full schedule hasn’t been finalized, here’s what’s in place at this point:

— Indoor Practice Clinics: March 24 (analyzing shot data) at PEAK Golf Academy; April 20 (short game) at PEAK Golf Academy. The cost is $50 per clinic for a CGA member and $65 for a non member.

— Women’s Practice Clinics: May 11 at Overland Park Golf Course in Denver; May 18 at Tiara Rado Golf Course in Grand Junction; June 9 at Cherokee Ridge Golf Course in Colorado Springs; June 22 at EagleVail Golf Club. Price: $75 for members, $100 for non-members.

Auction Time: The CGA Season Kickoff Silent Auction, which has its origins in the CWGA Women’s Annual Meeting, has since expanded. But it has a similarly worthy beneficiary as proceeds support CGA junior player developmental programs, including the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy, Youth on Course, Golf in Schools, etc. 

This year’s auction is underway and will continue to March 15 at 4 p.m. As of Saturday evening, it had raised over $10,000.

For more information on the auction, CLICK HERE.

Notable: During the Women’s Golf Summit, the Aurora Hills 9-Hole League was named the CGA Women’s Club of the Year. … Saturday marked the second in-person CGA Women’s Golf Summit since Covid-19 safety concerns precluded such in-person events in 2021 and ’22. Both have been held at the Denver Botanic Gardens. “I love the Botanic Gardens,” Mate said. “It’s a beautiful venue and just a perfect day. The only problem is, all these women are going to think today was great and we’re going to get more and more who want to come, so we may outgrow this venue.” … A list of all the reported 2023 women’s club champions from around Colorado was on a scroll shown in Mitchell Hall during the general session on Saturday.

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