Rising to the Top

It’s time to finalize the rundown of the top Colorado golf stories of 2023

By Gary Baines – 12/29/2023

Thirteen down, 12 to go.

Earlier this week, we started our countdown of the top 25 stories in Colorado golf in 2023. And today, it’s time for our second — and final — installment. Specifically, we’ll enumerate the top 12 — in reverse order — plus add some honorable-mention selections.

So, as Jackie Gleason used to say, away we go:

12. Denver resident Jon Lindstrom was named one of the top senior amateurs in the world by Global Golf Post. In 2023, Lindstrom swept the CGA’s major senior titles and became the first Coloradan to win the Trans-Miss senior championship. As of the week of Dec. 19, Lindstrom was ranked fifth in the world among male amateurs age 55 and older. READ MORE

11. After a long PGA Tour drought for Colorado, plans for the 2024 BMW Championship at Castle Pines Golf Club are taking shape nicely. There will be a strong focus on entertainment as well as golf next August. By measure of sheer yardage, Castle Pines will likely be the longest course ever contested for a PGA Tour event, though as a practical matter, the altitude will make it play much shorter. READ MORE

Drew Blass, tournament director for The Ascendant presented by Blue, with Korn Ferry Tour president Alex Baldwin (right) and Alyx Donahue, championship coordinator for The Ascendant, which was named KFT Tournament of the Year.

10. For the second time in three years, The Ascendant presented by Blue at TPC Colorado earned the Korn Ferry Tour Tournament of the Year honor. In its five years as a KFT event, The Ascendant has become one of the favorite stops on the Korn Ferry Tour schedule. READ MORE

9. After serving as the University of Colorado women’s golf head coach for 27 years — she’s the longest-tenured female head coach in CU sports history — Anne Kelly will step down at the end of the 2023-24 season. She’s led the Buffs to two top-20 finishes in NCAA national championships. READ MORE In the wake of the announcement, Kelly earned a national honor for her lifetime of contributions to the profession.READ MORE Current CU associate head coach Madeleine Sheils will take over the Buffs’ squad after Kelly retires.  

8. At age 53, Micah Rudosky of Cortez three-peated as the Colorado PGA Professional Championship winner. In all, he’s captured the title in the event a record-tying four times, joining Fred Wampler, Jack Sommers  and Ron Vlosich as four-timers. READ MORE

7. After barely missing out on earning an LPGA Tour card in October, former University of Colorado golfer Robyn Choi made an emphatic statement with her victory in the LPGA Q-Series qualifier. Coloradan Becca Huffer also regained her LPGA status — in her case by the narrowest of margins. Both will join former CU golfer Jenny Coleman in returning to the LPGA Tour in 2024. READ MORE Meanwhile, Coloradan Shane Bertsch became fully exempt on 2024 PGA Tour Champions with a third-place finish at Q-school. READ MORE

Nick Nosewicz had some fun after winning the CGA Match Play at age 39.

6. Mid-amateurs — golfers 25 and older — put on quite a show in Colorado golf in 2023. At age 28, Colin Prater was named the CGA Les Fowler Player of the Year for the second time and earned the CGA Mid-Am POY honor as well. READ MORE Meanwhile, at 39, Nick Nosewicz became the oldest winner of the CGA Match Play since 1987, earning his second Match Play victory in the last decade. READ MORE Both Prater and Nosewicz qualified for the U.S. Amateur that was held at Cherry Hills Country Club, with Prater advancing to match play. Also, 33-year-old Parker Edens tied the amateur scoring record and finished second in the Inspirato Colorado Open — the best showing by an amateur at the event since 2010. READ MORE Then Edens advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur, where he lost to eventual champion Stewart Hagestad, who’s now won the event three times. READ MORE

5. The new $1.6 million Colorado Golf Hall of Fame Museum at The Broadmoor drew rave reviews during its Grand Opening in April. READ MORE Seven months later, 475 people, including 37 Hall of Famers, attended the Hall of Fame’s 50th Anniversary Gala at The Broadmoor. Among those on hand were Hale Irwin, Judy Bell, Steve Jones, Craig Stadler, Hollis Stacy and Brandt Jobe.

4. Monica Lieving of Lakewood became at least the second Coloradan to win the women’s World Long Drive Championship, following in footsteps of Nancy Abiecunas, who prevailed in 2003. READ MORE

Kiara Romero with caddie Chuck Delich during the title match for the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Eisenhower Golf Club.

3. In the first U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship held in Colorado since 1982, 17-year-old Kiara Romero of San Jose Calif., sank a 7-foot par putt on the 36th hole of the final to beat Rianne Malixi of the Philippines 1 up for the title at Eisenhower Golf Club. Chuck Delich, a college hockey standout who’s in the Air Force Academy Athletics Hall of Fame, caddied all week for Romero. He predicted before the start of the championship that “this girl can win this whole thing” — and he was proven correct. The event at the Air Force Academy drew rave reviews. READ MORE

2. In the most prestigious golf tournament held in Colorado in 2023, a 12-birdie performance in the scheduled 36-hole U.S. Amateur final at Cherry Hills Country Club gave Nick Dunlap of Tuscaloosa, Ala., a second USGA title at age 19. Only the University of Alabama golfer and Tiger Woods have won both the U.S. Am and the U.S. Junior Am. Dunlap was recently named Golfweek‘s Male Amateur of the Year. READ MORE  On his 22nd birthday, Connor Jones of Westminster and Colorado State University became the first Colorado resident since 2016 to advance to the round of 32 at the U.S. Am. READ MORE Jones will finish the year ranked among the top 100 amateurs in the world. During championship week, Cherry Hills Country Club donated $500,000 each to the Evans Scholars Foundation, the Colorado chapters of First Tee, and the Palmer Scholarship Foundation. READ MORE

1. 2023 proved the most impressive year of golf in the 21st century by a male player who grew up in Colorado. Wyndham Clark, who was born in Denver and went to high school at Valor Christian, came into the year without a victory on the PGA Tour, but rectified that matter in May with a win at the Wells Fargo Championship. It was the first PGA Tour triumph by a Colorado native in almost 20 years — since Jonathan Kaye prevailed at the 2004 FBR Open for his second win on Tour. READ MORE Just over a month later came an even-bigger breakthrough as the winner of two state high school individual titles and the 2010 CGA Amateur claimed the U.S. Open title. He joined elite company — Hale Irwin and Steve Jones — as golfers who grew up in Colorado and have won the U.S. Open. Coincidentally, Clark’s hard-fought first victory in a major came at same age as Irwin’s (29, when Hale won the first of his three U.S. Opens). READ MORE With Clark’s U.S. Open win, players from Colorado claimed two major championships, three LPGA Tour and two PGA Tour titles in the course of 15 months. (Jennifer Kupcho did the honors on the women’s side in 2022.) And Clark didn’t stop there as he became the first Colorado high school graduate since 1991 to represent the U.S. in the Ryder Cup matches. READ MORE Then he capped off his stellar season by placing third in his first Tour Championship and earned a whopping $5 million. READ MORE  Clark will finish the year No. 10 in the World Golf Rankings. With all that, Clark added a big honor in the fall by being elected to the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. READ MORE After such a spectacular run in the final year of his 20s, Clark turned 30 on Dec. 9.


— Early in the year, the University of Colorado Colorado Springs announced it would be eliminating its men’s and women’s golf programs at the end of the 2022-23 season “due to financial constraints and a declining budget.” The UCCS golf teams had a fair amount of success over the years, perhaps most notably when Colin Prater was on the men’s roster. Prater won the CGA Amateur in 2016 while still playing for UCCS and has since been named CGA Les Fowler Player of the Year twice.

— (Updated Jan. 2) Californian Patrick Koenig set a record in Colorado by playing his 450th different course — at least 18 holes each — in a single year. Specifically, he established the new standard at Omni Interlocken Golf Club in Broomfield in October. Koenig went on to finish his 365-day quest with 18-hole rounds played at 580 different courses.

— This year, as in 2022, Tim Schantz, the CEO at Troon, was ranked No. 1 among the “Most Powerful People in Golf” by Golf Inc. Schantz was born in Arizona but was raised in part in Colorado, attended Overland High School and earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado.

— Coloradan Nick Clearwater cracked the top 20 in Golf Digest’s “50 Best Teachers in America”, while part-time Gunnison resident Jim Hardy was named to the Legends of Golf Instruction list.

— Former Broncos standout Peyton Manning joined a who’s who of the game as he was picked to receive the 2024 Ambassador of Golf Award. 

— Coloradan David Duval, who was exempt for the 2023 British Open, instead decided to tee it up at the Inspriato Colorado Open, where son Brady also competed. Meanwhile, World Golf Hall of Famer Davis Love III caddied for his son — and former Colorado Open champ — Dru Love.

— Colorado native Jill McGill earned a spot in the Sportswomen of Colorado Hall of Fame following her win at 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open.

— Colorado Springs’ Paige Crawford completed a sweep of the 2023 female John Shippen tournament titles and earned her first starts on the LPGA Tour. 

An artist’s rendering on the Rodeo Dunes property.

— Plans were fleshed out for the first two courses at Rodeo Dunes — both publicly accessible — on the plains northeast of Denver. Routing the courses were Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and longtime Coore and Crenshaw associate Jim Craig.

Flooding at courses such as CommonGround, Green Valley Ranch and Denver’s City Park in May prompted some flashbacks to the 2013 deluges in Colorado. Fortunately, the damage this time didn’t prove as bad as a decade ago.

— Former University of Colorado golfer Yannik Paul made his debuts at both the PGA Championship and the British Open.

— Former CU golfer Jenny Coleman won on the Epson Tour for the first time, prevailing in a playoff.

Dylan McDermott, who set the CU season-long scoring record in 2022-23, was named an honorable-mention Division I All-American by the Golf Coaches Association of America.

— Coloradan Davis Bryant overcame a five-stroke deficit on the final day to repeat as Southwestern Amateur champion. He later competed in his second U.S. Amateur — this one at Cherry Hills — before turning pro.

— A victory in the CGA Women’s Senior Match Play increased the record totals for Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Kim Eaton — to six in the Senior Match Play and 29 in CGA women’s championships overall.

— Former junior phenom Dillon Stewart finished strong to win the CGA Amateur and end a victory drought at RainDance National.

— Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Bob Doyle was named the Colorado PGA’s Golf Professional of the Year for a record-tying third time.

Jason Schultz, a 2019 U.S. Mid-Am semifinalist in Colorado, set a scoring record in winning Inspirato Colorado Senior Open by 4, while Matt Schalk matched the best CSO finish by a Coloradan in the last decade.

Jackson Solem of Longmont went wire to wire for the win at the Sinclair Rocky Mountain Open in Grand Junction.

— Colorado State’s Connor Jones started the college season with an individual win for the second straight year, this time setting a scoring record in the Ram Masters Invitational. But CSU’s team title streak in event was snapped at eight.

— Three Coloradans — Sydney Liddell of Parker and Colorado Springs residents Simon White and Landry Frost — qualified at Castle Pines Golf Club for the 2024 Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals that Augusta National will host.

— The CSU women’s golf team set a program record for scoring — by 31 strokes — in winning its Ram Classic at Ptarmigan Country Club. Individual champion Sofia Torres broke CSU’s individual scoring mark by seven.

— After a deep run at the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, Gunnison’s Marilyn Hardy fell in the quarterfinals. It was Hardy’s second time in the final eight of the event.

Scott Vincent’s career-best finish in a LIV Golf event (third place) gave the Colorado resident a 7-figure payday and a guaranteed spot in LIV for 2024.

Kevin McAlpine, who played golf for CSU — where he was a teammate of fellow Scotsman Martin Laird — and made the All-Mountain West Conference team in 2005, dies at age 39.

Jake Staiano, the 2017 CGA Player of the Year, was suspended for three months from PGA Tour-sanctioned competitions, including Q-school, through Dec. 10 for betting on PGA Tour events, though not on tournaments in which he competed.

Elena King of Centennial, who instructs at CommonGround Golf Course, was named among the top 50 LPGA-certified teachers worldwide.

— CSU golfer Christoph Bleier finished strong to tie for eighth individually at the World Amateur Team Championship.

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