On the Horizon

A look at notable events and happenings that await us in Colorado golf in 2024

By Gary Baines – 1/4/2024

The year 2024 will be a big one in Colorado golf — for fans, for high-level competitors, for tournament organizers, for golf courses and clubs, for observers — you name it.

As we begin the new year, it’s worth highlighting what’s upcoming, plus noting big anniversaries that will happen in 2024 (think monumental Colorado golf happenings from 5, 10, 20, 50 years ago, etc.)

First off, some significant events/happenings that await us in Colorado golf in 2024:

— For the first time in a decade, the state will host a PGA Tour event as the BMW Championship comes to Castle Pines Golf Club Aug. 22-25. The BMW is the penultimate event of the three PGA Tour FedExCup Playoff tournaments, and in this case the field is limited to 50 players who will be vying for a whopping $20 million purse. 

Castle Pines, of course, is no stranger to PGA Tour events, having been home to The International from 1986 through 2006. Since then, the course has undergone significant changes — all overseen by Jack Nicklaus, the course’s original designer. 

In all likelihood, the 2024 BMW Championship will feature the longest course played on the PGA Tour since 1983 — or likely ever — as Castle Pines will be set up at close to 8,100 yards. But, as a practical matter, the distance won’t be unusual by Tour standards as things play much shorter at an altitude of 6,300 feet or so, compared to much closer to sea level for most PGA Tour events.

The BMW Championship — and its predecessor, the Western Open — benefits the Evans Scholarship for caddies, with all net proceeds going to that cause. One of the E.S. scholarship houses is located at the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus. 

Since the final International, in 2006, the only PGA Tour event contested in Colorado was the 2014 BMW Championship, won by Billy Horschel at Cherry Hills Country Club. Coloradan George Solich, an Evans Scholar at CU from 1979-83, served as general chairman of the 2014 BMW Championship, an event that was named the PGA Tour’s Tournament of the Year and raised a then-record $3.5 million for the Evans Scholarship. This year, Solich’s older brother, Duffy, also an Evans Scholar alum, is serving as tournament chairman for the BMW. And George Solich also is playing a major role as he’s chairman and president of Castle Pines Golf Club.

The 18th hole at Castle Pines Golf Club, which will host the 2024 BMW Championship.

— Speaking of The International, the 2005 runner-up in the event, Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Brandt Jobe, will be returning to competition soon after an extended layoff. Jobe, a Kent Denver graduate who lived in Colorado from 1970 to ’99, has been sidelined on PGA Tour Champions since March due to hip and shoulder issues. Jobe, 58, has won twice on the Champions circuit.

— The CGA Amateur, one of the association’s two open-age men’s majors, will be contested Aug. 1-4 at the Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Golf Club for the first time since at least 1976 — and very possibly ever. (The recorded sites for the event prior to 1977 are limited to just a half-dozen or so of the championships.). Eisenhower’s Blue Course hosted the 2023 U.S. Girls’ Junior and has been home to college golf’s Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational since 1969. 

Meanwhile, the quarterfinals through the finals of the simultaneously-conducted CGA Match Play and Women’s Match Play, are scheduled for June 13-14 at Lakewood Country Club. It will be the first Match Play at Lakewood CC since 1977, when Ken Krieger claimed the title. The last time the CGA Women’s Match Play was held at Lakewood CC was 1972, when current Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Carol Flenniken prevailed for the third of her four victories in the championship.

Pod play — and the men’s single-elimination round of 16 — for both the Match Play and the Women’s Match Play will be held at CGA-owned CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora June 9-11.

Speaking of CGA championships, RainDance National, the 18-month-old course in Windsor that hosted the CGA Amateur last summer, this year will be the site of the CGA Senior Match Play June 24-28. Meanwhile, the CGA Mid-Amateur is set for The Fox Hill Club in Longmont Oct. 4-6.

— As far as USGA qualifiers go, of particular note is that qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open is scheduled for the East Course at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs on June 5. After this year’s U.S. Senior Open is held in Newport, Rhode Island, the 2025 national championship is set for The Broadmoor (June 26-29 that year). The East Course has previously hosted the event in 2008 and 2018.

One big change starting this year is that there will be two stages of U.S. Amateur qualifying — notably a year after the national championship was held in Colorado in 2023. Like the U.S. Open, the U.S. Am now will feature local and final qualifying stages. For the Amateur, both of those stages will be 18-hole events. This year, a date and site for local qualifying in Colorado has yet to be finalized, but the final qualifying is scheduled for July 18 at Columbine Country Club, long a fixture for Colorado-based U.S. Am qualifying — and U.S. Open final qualifying when Colorado still featured such a site.

— Meanwhile, on the professional side, the grandaddy of Colorado PGA tournaments, the Colorado PGA Professional Championship, is scheduled for Sept. 9-11 at a site to be determined, according to a tentative 2024 schedule the Section recently released.

— As for the Inspirato Colorado Open championships, all three this year will be back in their fairly typical spots on the calendar at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club, though the Colorado Women’s Open will be contested all in May this year. The CWO is set for May 29-31, while the Colorado Open will be contested July 25-28 and the Colorado Senior Open Aug. 28-30.

The Colorado Cup team event, in which CGA Amateurs face Colorado PGA professionals, will return in 2024.

— The Colorado Cup matches between the top amateurs from the CGA and the pros from the Colorado PGA are scheduled to return this year after last being held in 2021. A tentative date is Oct. 9 at a site to be determined. The Cup matches were first held in 1971.

— Colorado native Jennifer Kupcho has represented the U.S. on the Solheim Cup team that has faced Europe in 2021 and ’23. This year, she’ll take another run at a spot in the event as the Solheim Cup will be held in back-to-back years for just the second time (previously in 2002 and ’03). This time around, the event is set for Sept. 13-15 in Gainesville, Va.

Olympic golf will return in 2024, with Paris hosting the men’s tournament Aug. 1-4 and the women’s Aug. 7-10. Among the players with strong Colorado ties who might be in the mix for an Olympic berth (based on two years of Olympic rankings) are Wyndham Clark (USA), Jennifer Kupcho (USA), former University of Colorado golfer Yannik Paul (Germany) and Coloradan resident Scott Vincent (Zimbabwe). A maximum of four players per nation and gender is in place.

— Once again this year, three AJGA tournaments will be held in Colorado: the AJGA Colorado Junior at Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster June 4-6; the Colorado Springs Junior at Cheyenne Shadows Golf Club at Fort Carson June 11-13; and the AJGA Junior Open at The Bridges presented by the City of Montrose July 30-Aug. 1.

Wyndham Clark will play in his first Masters come April.

— Denver native Wyndham Clark received numerous perks by virtue of posting his first two PGA Tour victories last year — the Wells Fargo Championship and more importantly, the U.S. Open. Without a doubt one of the most notable is that the Valor Christian grad will compete in his first Masters at age 30. The tournament dates at Augusta National are April 11-14. Another first-time event for Clark will be this week’s Sentry in Maui, Hawaii, where action began on Thursday. The field for the Sentry is limited to 2022-23 PGA Tour winners and players in the top 50 on the final 2023 FedExCup points list.

Clark will defend his U.S. Open title June 13-16 at Pinehurst Country Club’s No. 2 course in North Carolina.

— The 2024 Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals at Augusta National on April 7 will feature a strong Colorado contingent. Out of the 80 contestants, three will be from the Centennial State: Sydney Liddell of Parker, and Colorado Springs residents Simon White and Landry Frost.

— After 27 years as women’s golf head coach at the University of Colorado — a record for a female head coach at CU — Anne Kelly will retire in the spring, at the end of the 2023-24 season. Current CU associate head coach Madeleine Sheils will then take over as head coach.

NBC Sports, which parted ways with lead analyst Paul Azinger in the fall after five years, reportedly will try out various possible replacements in the first half of 2024. Among those expected to get a tryout are two golfers with significant Colorado connections: Cherry Hills Village resident David Duval and former Aspenite Justin Leonard. Both have quite a bit of experience on broadcast teams for national/international golf events, and both have won British Open titles.

— For the third straight year — and the second under new owner Kevin Morton —  the Colorado Golf Expo will be held at the Colorado Convention Center. The dates for the 2024 show are Feb. 16-18.

— This year will mark a record-tying one for number of inductees into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, with six. A date and site for the induction event haven’t been finalized, but the inductees will include tour players Wyndham Clark and Jennifer Kupcho, along with George Solich, Pat Hamill, Joe Assell and the late Gene Torres.

— The Ascendant presented by Blue Korn Ferry Tour event at TPC Colorado will conclude in mid-July again, this year scheduled for July 11-14. The qualifying tournaments for the event — which was named the 2023 KFT Tournament of the Year — is set for July 8 at Colorado National Golf Club in Erie and Broadlands Golf Course in Broomfield.

— Former Air Force Academy golfer — and ex-Fort Collins resident — Tom Whitney has competed in three PGA Tour events in his career. But later this month it’s a good bet that he’ll play in his first Tour tournament as a PGA Tour member, having earned his card in the fall through his season-long performance on the Korn Ferry Tour. Possibilities may include the Sony Open in Hawaii (Jan. 11-14) or The American Express in La Quinta, Calif. (Jan. 18-21).  

As for notable anniversaries in Colorado golf in 2024, here are several:

60 Years Ago (1964)

Bob Kirchner organized the inaugural Colorado Open at Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen. The first tournament was won by Bill Bisdorf, who also prevailed in 1965 and ’67 to become the first three-time champion.

— Current Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Carol Flenniken won the British Women’s Amateur and what is now known as the Ladies National Golf Association Amateur, and she was a semifinalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

Fifty years ago, Hale Irwin won the first of his three U.S. Open titles.

50 Years Ago (1974)

Hale Irwin, a graduate of Boulder High School and the University of Colorado, won the first of his three U.S. Open titles in a tournament dubbed “The Massacre at Winged Foot.” He also won the national championship in 1979 and ’90.

— A then-part-time Colorado Springs resident and an employee at The Broadmoor, Cindy Hill, won the U.S. Women’s Amateur — beating defending champion Carol Semple in the final — after being the runner-up in 1970 and ’72. She subsequently was named the inaugural Colorado Sportswoman of the Year — for 1974. She also captured the individual title at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship

Gary Longfellow, now a Colorado Golf Hall of Famer, completed the “Colorado Grand Slam” by winning the CGA Match Play, CGA Stroke Play and the Colorado Open titles in the same year.

30 Years Ago (1994)

— Colorado native — and now Colorado Golf Hall of Famer — Jill McGill won her second USGA championship in two years, capturing the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links title the year after claiming the U.S. Women’s Amateur championship.

25 Years Ago (1999)

Mike McGetrick, who established his McGetrick Golf Academy in Colorado, was awarded the PGA of America’s national Teacher of the Year Award.

20 Years Ago (2004)

— The Colorado Open was revived after a one-year absence due to financial issues under the previous tournament leadership. Bill Loeffler won the event for the third time in 2004, in this instance at the tournament’s new venue, Green Valley Ranch Golf Club.

10 Years Ago (2014)

— Part-time Coloradan Kevin Stadler notched his first PGA Tour victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

— Billy Horschel won the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club, which marked the first PGA Tour event held in Colorado since 2006. The BMW was named the PGA Tour Tournament of the Year and it raised a then-record $3.5 million for the Evans Scholarship for caddies.

5 Years Ago (2019)

— Coloradan Jennifer Kupcho overcame a migraine headache and shot a final-round 67 to win the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur by four strokes.

— Australian Lukas Michel becomes the first international winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur, which Colorado Golf Club hosted.

— TPC Colorado in Berthoud began hosting a Korn Ferry Tour event and in 2021 and ’23 it was named the KFT Tournament of the Year.

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