Open Season

Big rally allows Coloradan Matt Schalk to qualify for his first USGA Championship — a U.S. Senior Open; Wyoming amateur Steve White also headed for his first Senior Open; average scoring in qualifier at The Broadmoor was over 80

By Gary Baines – 6/5/2024

COLORADO SPRINGS — Given that Erie resident Matt Schalk is 53 years old and has won a national title in golf, you might assume that he’s competed in numerous USGA championships. After all, it’s not unusual for some elite golfers of a similar age to have played in dozens of them.

But while Schalk’s daughter, Hailey, a three-time girls state high school champion who went on to play at the University of Colorado, has indeed teed it up in several USGA championships — and Matt has caddied for her in some — the elder Schalk has competed in exactly zero USGA championships himself.

But on Wednesday, he was able to put one on his calendar — and write it in ink. The PGA general manager at Colorado National Golf Club qualified for No. 1 — and it’s a biggie. Schalk is headed for arguably the most prestigious senior championship in the world, the nationally televised U.S. Senior Open, which this year is set for June 27-30 at Newport (R.I.) Country Club.

And Schalk accomplished the feat on Wednesday at the site of the 2025 U.S. Senior Open, the historic East Course at The Broadmoor.

“I’m excited to go to a USGA event,” he said. “USGA events are always special, even as an amateur, right? Hailey always loved USGA events. They were her favorite ones to get in to. For me, it will be my first one. I’ve never played in a U.S. Open. I wasn’t a great golfer as an amateur when I was coming up. So it’ll be my first-ever USGA event that I’m not caddying for Hailey. She can tell me how it goes.”

Seventy-four players teed it up for just two USSO berths on Wednesday. And earning the golden tickets were Schalk and 52-year-old amateur Steve White from Jackson, Wyo., who likewise will be making his Senior Open debut. White has previously competed in 10 USGA championships, including the 2007 U.S. Amateur, but none since 2008.

Schalk will be taking aim at another senior major.

Schalk, White and David Johnson of Berthoud, a pro seeking amateur reinstatement, matched 2-over-par 72s for low rounds of the day on a 7,132-yard, par-70 layout that featured some difficult pin positions and very fast greens.

The three played off for the two available national spots, and Johnson put his approach from the left rough just short of the green on the first hole at the East Course. His pitch trickled about 12 feet left of the hole, leaving him a big-breaking par attempt. He missed it low, allowing Schalk and White to prevail with pars. Schalk two-putted from the right fringe after being in the left fairway bunker off the tee, while White two-putted from the center of the green, about 22 feet from the cup.

Jon Lindstrom of Denver, the reigning CGA Senior Player of the Year and a golfer ranked No. 7 in the world among amateurs 55 and older, ended up the second alternate — behind Johnson — after playing the formidable back nine in 3 over par en route to a 73.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about what happened at the top of the leaderboard was the mid-round turnaround by Schalk. Starting on the back nine, he was 4 over par through eight holes. But he turned things around on his back nine (the front at the East Course), making birdies on both of the par-5s — from 2 feet on No. 3 (his 12th hole) and from 6 feet on No. 9 (his 18th). 

Schalk, who was in the final pairing of the qualifier, needed the birdie on his final hole of regulation to force the playoff. He had 244 yards in for his second shot on the par-5 and left his hybrid approach just right of the green. From there, he pitched up the green, leaving himself a relatively straight 6-footer for birdie, which he drained.

White pitches onto the 18th green on Wednesday.

Schalk credited his daughter’s approach to golf for both his comeback on Wednesday and his stellar play over the last couple of years. Over that period, he’s won the 2022 national Senior PGA Professional Championship and two Colorado PGA Senior Professional Championships, and has made the field for three senior majors — this U.S. Senior Open and two KitchenAid Senior PGA Championships (though he didn’t play the second one, this year, because he couldn’t get to the tournament site in time after John Daly withdrew, opening up a spot.)  

“I think mentally I’m a lot stronger really from just watching Hailey and caddying for her,” Matt said. “I really think that was the turning point in my career — just watching her demeanor. I had a fiery demeanor; I just took everything too hard. To watch her just kind of play and methodically go through it and be happy no matter what she shot — that’s how I (now) try to do it. I don’t always do a good job. I thought about that a lot today — just kind of trying to have the same mentality as Hailey, especially on this course because it’s so difficult.

“You shoot 4 over after nine, you’re thinking you go to the car normally, right? I just kind of thought, ‘Just keep doing what Hailey does, just keep methodically picking away at it. It worked out.”

Indeed, when Schalk finished second in last year’s Inspirato Colorado Senior Open — tying the best CSO showing by a Coloradan in the last decade — it was Hailey who was caddying for him. Hailey couldn’t loop on Wednesday — she was working — so her former CU teammate and roommate, Laura Waxer-Gooding, filled in.

Despite being 4 over after eight holes, Schalk never thought he was out of contention for one of the U.S. Senior Open berths.

“I knew that I could take advantage of the front nine (his back),” he said. “I felt confident about that, and fortunately I did.”

After losing out in Wednesday’s playoff, David Johnson of Berthoud will be the first alternate from The Broadmoor site.

And it certainly helped that scores were high on the formidable East Course. The average for the field on Wednesday ended up at 80.04 — more than 10 over par. One par-4 played more than a stroke over par (5.08 on No. 7), and two others were almost as brutal (4.95 on 17 and 4.92 on 13).

“It played a good bit harder than the practice-round days,” White noted. “I knew they were rolling and double-cutting the greens the last couple of days, so the greens had a little more bite to them than earlier in the week. And the hole locations were pretty tough too.”

Despite living in Colorado for so long, Schalk indicated he’d played The Broadmoor’s East Course just three times prior to Wednesday. But he seems to have many of the nuances ironed out.

“It’s one of those courses you’ve got to be really methodical about, have detailed notes about where you’re trying to miss it,” he said. “That’s helpful. Here, you’ve got to keep the hole between you and the mountain. If you do that, you’ve done a pretty darn good job — whether you’re chipping or putting. That’s all I tried to do today.”

CGA Senior Player of the Year Jon Lindstrom finished a shot out of Wednesday’s playoff.

So Wednesday marks another accomplishment as a senior golfer for Schalk, who, in addition to the aforementioned, came within a couple of strokes of qualifying for the 2023 PGA Championship.

“It’s kind of interesting that over the course of two years, potentially I was going to be in four majors without ever having played a (regular) Tour event,” he said. “It’s interesting, and it’s fun.

“I’m excited as a golfer to kind of feel what U.S. Opens are like. I know it’s going to be tough, it’s going to be challenging. But just my love for the game of golf, I’m going to go out there and enjoy kind of seeing what they do in that kind of setup.

“This will rank up there just because of the history behind USGA events, the history behind Open championships. To me, I’d really love to play in the British Open or the Senior British Open. Those are all up there, and this one is right up there with them.”

A family of ducks seemed unfazed by Wednesday’s playoff while crossing the first hole.

As for White, he tied for the low score on Wednesday despite never having played at The Broadmoor before the practice rounds.

“This golf course kind of suited me, I think,” the 2008 Wyoming State Amateur champion said. “I like old school, kind of tricky greens. You have to pay attention. Leave it in the right spots and that sort of thing. I didn’t think 2 over par would be in the hunt. I thought I had to make a couple of birdies coming in. I’m surprised that I’m sitting here talking” about being one of the medalists. 

“But the greens are the thing, and I knew that. You have to try to stay on the correct side of the hole.”

On Wednesday, White recorded three birdies and five bogeys on the day, resulting in one of the high points of his life in golf. 

“It’s probably the biggest thrill of my career for a while now,” he said. “I’ve been lucky. I’ve played in 10 USGA events, but none since 2008. So it means a lot (to go back to one).”

U.S. Senior Open Qualifying

At Par-70 East Course at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs


Matt Schalk, Erie 72

Amateur Steve White, Jackson, Wyo. 72

Alternates (In Order)

David Jackson, Berthoud 72

Amateur Jon Lindstrom, Denver 73

For all the scores from the qualifier, CLICK HERE.

Next year’s U.S. Senior Open will be coming to The Broadmoor.

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