Sensational Senior

Matt Schalk of Erie, winner of the national Senior PGA Professional Championship, starts with 67 and shares lead at Inspirato Colorado Senior Open; his daughter, CU golfer Hailey Schalk, caddying for him

By Gary Baines – 8/23/2023

Given what Matt Schalk has accomplished in senior golf over the last 13 months, it only seems reasonable to think he’s a good bet to be in contention at the Inspirato Colorado Senior Open.

And the Erie resident and PGA general manager at Colorado National Golf Club didn’t disappoint on Wednesday as he made six birdies and one bogey (a three-putt) en route to a 5-under-par 67, good for a share of the lead in the $100,000 tournament at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in northeast Denver.

“I’ve always thought I could definitely win out here — especially this event,” the 52-year-old said. “But it’s hard. Today was a hard round. I was fortunate I was hitting all my spots. Today the course was playing much more difficult than when I was playing the regular Colorado Open, even with the yardage difference. The greens are super fast and firm. You just had to be super methodical. If you got out of position, you were in trouble. Today was a tough test. 

“But I like this course. It suits me well. You’ve got to hit some good shots. I was excited to play for sure.”

Little wonder why. Schalk has not only won the last two Colorado Senior PGA Professional Championships, but last October he captured a national title as he was victorious at the Senior PGA Professional Championship. He was the first Coloradan since Bill Loeffler in 2007 to claim that trophy. In addition, he missed qualifying for the 2023 PGA Championship by just two strokes at the PGA Professional Championship in May.

On Wednesday, it was more very good golf as Schalk is tied for the top spot in the CSO with two 50-year-old Floridians — Brad Adamonis of Ponte Vedra and Bobby Collins of North Palm Beach.

Helping Schalk’s cause on Wednesday was his daughter — doubling as his caddie — Hailey Schalk, a three-time girls state high school individual champion who is about to start her senior season competing for the University of Colorado.

“She’s caddied a fair amount (for me), but I think not a lot when I was playing great,” Matt said. “It’s nice she’s able to do it (this week) because they don’t start school until Monday.”

Schalk made six birdies in Wednesday’s round.

Asked if her presence helps his game, Schalk said it does.

“She’s a good player and she’s smart out there,” he said. “She tells me when I’m over-thinking things or maybe trying to be too aggressive. She tells me, ‘You can’t do that; you’ve got to go this way.’ That’s a nice part about it. And it also kind of helps her learn as well. If I think this is the line, where some people might say, ‘Yeah, I think that’s a good line,’ she’ll go, ‘No, I think that’s dumb because if you do this, this can happen.’ I go, ‘Oh, OK.’”

The Senior Open has two rounds left to go, but if Schalk were to win it, he’d be the first Colorado resident to claim the title in a decade, since Doug Rohrbaugh of Carbondale came out on top in 2013.

This marks Schalk’s second Colorado Senior Open. Last year, after a solid first two rounds (68-71), he struggled on the final day (75) and tied for 16th place.

“I played really well the first two rounds,” he recalled. “I played with (John) Elway and (Paul) Lobato and they both missed the cut. We went out after round 2 and had too long of a night and I was terrible the next day.

“I texted them, ‘Good thing we’re not playing together this year.’”

As for the other co-leaders, before teeing it up this week in the Colorado Senior Open, Collins said it had been a while since he’d played golf in the Centennial State.

Like about 36 years.

When the U.S. Junior Amateur was contested at Singletree Golf Course (now known as the Sonnenalp Club) west of Vail in 1987, Collins said he was the youngest competitor in the field, at age 14.

That being the case — along with the fact that he lives in North Palm Beach, at sea level, and has a significant adjustment to dial in distances at a mile high — makes what he did Wednesday a nice little feat.

Collins, now a senior golf rookie at age 50, shot a bogey-free 67 to tie for the top spot.

“I was pleasantly surprised (by the score),” said Collins, a former Wake Forest golfer who played in the 2008 U.S. Open and regularly on the Korn Ferry Tour (then called the Nike Tour) in 1995. “I didn’t have much expectations. But I got a lot of good breaks today and the putts seemed to drop. It was a nice 67. I can’t complain.”

Collins wasn’t even in the field until last week when he called and asked to be a late addition. After the CSO organizers looked over his resumé, he landed a spot and flew from Michigan — where he had tried unsuccessfully to qualify for a PGA Tour Champions event — to Denver. And now, he’s in the running for his first senior title.

Collins came to the course in shorts on Wednesday morning, not aware that competitors are required to wear long pants. So he purchased a pair in the GVR golf shop, then played a stellar round of golf.

“Ball striking was great. Putting was good. Anytime I was in trouble I seemed to get the ball up and down,” said Collins, who advanced to the final stage of Champions Q-school last fall. “It was a stress-free 67, so that’s good.”

As for Adamonis, the highlight of his day was an eagle on the 296-yard, par-4 fourth hole, where he hit a 3-wood to 2 feet and sank the putt. That concluded a stretch where he was 4 under par for three holes. All in all, it was a strong effort considering that Adamonis didn’t get in a practice round after trying to qualify for the Champions event in Michigan and flying into Denver, arriving Tuesday evening.

“I was really happy about it,” he said of the performance, which included just one bogey. “It was a little windy in the afternoon. The greens were firm. I played real well.

“I was super happy to shoot what I did because it’s different altitude (than in Michigan). Three rounds like that would be nice.”

Adamonis, who finished second in a playoff to Kenny Perry in the 2008 John Deere Classic and has posted four top 10s overall on the PGA Tour, won once on the Korn Ferry Tour, in 2007. This year, he’s competed in four Champions events, including the U.S. Senior Open, where he made the cut and placed 56th. Last month, he won the Connecticut Senior Open.

Coloradan Tony Aguilar opened with a 70 on Wednesday.

Closest behind the leaders after Wednesday was Jason Schultz of Dallas, who made two eagles in three holes on the front nine in shooting a 68. Jeff Lemaster of Las Vegas is third at 69. Two Coloradans — Tony Aguilar and Jason Brandt of Arvada — and former Coloradan Tom Kalinowski — are among those in sixth place at 70, along with longtime PGA Tour player Bob May, who famously finished second in a playoff to Tiger Woods at the 2000 PGA Championship.

2000 PGA Championship runner-up Bob May’s 70 left him in the top 10 after day 1.

Rough Day: The PGA Tour winners in the field didn’t fare well on Wednesday at GVR.

Two-time Tour winner Jonathan Kaye, a former University of Colorado golfer, opened with a 3-over-par 75 that included two birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey on No. 18, his ninth hole of the day. 

Meanwhile, Gary Hallberg of Longmont, a three-time champion on the PGA Tour, double bogeyed his first hole of the tournament and made another double on No. 8, ending up at 78. 

Defending champion Guy Boros, also a PGA Tour winner, went bogey-triple bogey on his eighth and ninth holes on Wednesday, also en route to a 78. And Trevor Dodds, who also has captured a PGA Tour title, joined Kaye at 75.

Notable: Ed Brown of Jupiter, Fla., fired a 1-over-par 73 Wednesday to gain the lead in the amateur competition. A stroke back are Sean Crowley of Littleton, and Jeff Slupe and Ed Kerr, both of Windsor. … Steve Jurgensen of Houston is the top super-senior (60 and older) after round 1, carding a 2-under-par 70. Rohrbaugh, Marshall Gavre of Fairfield, Iowa and Brown are next best at 73. … Harry Rudolph, who won the last two Colorado Senior Opens in which he competed (2020 and 2021, before skipping last year’s event) made five birdies on Wednesday but opened with a 1-over-par 73. … The overall field will be cut to the low 50 players and ties after round 2. … Former NFL quarterback Tommy Maddox started his Colorado Senior Open well enough — 1 under par through three holes — but played his last six holes of his front nine in 6 over par, and went to to shoot 81. … Former U.S. Senator Mark Udall carded an 84 on day 1. … The winner — or low professional — at GVR on Friday will earn $20,000, the most in CSO history.

For all the scores from the Colorado Senior Open, 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. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates