Punching His Ticket

With red-hot start to round, Fort Collins’ AJ Ott wins one of sponsor-exemption tournaments to land a spot in a Korn Ferry Tour event for the first time; in all, 4 players added to the field for The Ascendant at TPC Colorado

By Gary Baines – 7/6/2024

It’s been a big last couple of weeks for Fort Collins resident AJ Ott.

Late last month, the former Colorado State University golfer won the San Juan Open in New Mexico, earning $15,000 in the process.

Then on Saturday, the 2018 CGA Player of the Year earned his first start on the Korn Ferry Tour by winning the open-division sponsor exemption qualifying tournament at TPC Colorado in Berthoud. That’s where The Ascendant presented by Blue will be held Thursday through July 14, with him in the 156-player field. The tournament features a $1 million purse, with $180,000 going to the winner.

Instead of giving out its four sponsor exemptions in a traditional way, The Ascendant opted for a unique approach this year: holding three tournaments on Saturday, with the top finishers in each landing berths in the championship. Two went to PGA/Korn Ferry Tour members who weren’t otherwise in the field, one to an open-division champ, and one to a golfer 18 and under.

It was 33 golfers for one spot in the open division, with Ott making birdies on his first six holes and finishing at 5-under-par 67 to advance. He carded eight birdies and three bogeys on the day, earning $1,000 in addition to landing the tournament spot.

Ott estimated on Saturday that he’s played TPC Colorado 50-70 times over the years, and he shot 60 at the course once two summers ago.

Noah Hofman, a McCook, Neb., native and Phoenix resident who has played seven KFT events in 2024, fired a 6-under-par 66 to procure one of the PGA Tour/KFT member berths. Joining him in advancing was Karl Vilips of Australia, a former Stanford golfer (67). Hofman won $3,000 and Vilips $1,500.

Finn Meister of Tucson, Ariz., who will play his college golf at the University of Mississippi starting in the fall of 2025, nabbed the junior spot — out of a field of 12 — by posting a 4-under 68, good for a five-stroke “victory”. Meister won an AJGA tournament in Tucson last month and was runner-up in one last summer in Montrose.

For all the scores from Saturday’s sponsor-exemption tournaments, CLICK HERE.

Ott, Hofman, Vilips and Meister will be added to a field that was revealed on Friday by the Korn Ferry Tour. Eight more players will join them through Monday qualifying — four each at Colorado National in Erie and Broadlands in Broomfield.

(Updated July 9) For Thursday and Friday’s tee times at The Ascendant, 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 since 2009. The University of Colorado Evans Scholar alum was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates