Record-tying 6 people voted into Colorado Golf Hall of Fame; the induction class of 2024 features Wyndham Clark, Jennifer Kupcho, George Solich, Pat Hamill, Joe Assell and Gene Torres
By Gary Baines – 10/25/2023
Six individuals will be inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2024, matching the largest single enshrinement class in the organization’s history.
Following voting on Wednesday, included is Colorado native Jennifer Kupcho, who at age 26 is believed to be the youngest Colorado Golf Hall of Fame inductee ever. Previously enshrined before age 30 was Hale Irwin in 1974.
Joining Kupcho in the induction class of 2024 will be fellow Colorado native Wyndham Clark, winner of the 2023 U.S. Open, along with George Solich, Pat Hamill, Joe Assell and historical nominee Gene Torres.
Kupcho has won three times on the LPGA Tour and Clark twice on the PGA Tour. Solich played pivotal roles in bringing BMW Championship PGA Tour events to Colorado in 2014 and ’24 and helped found the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy. Hamill, like Solich a significant philanthropist in golf-related causes and beyond, led the way in reviving the Colorado Open in the early 2000s. Assell founded the very successful and ever-expanding GOLFTEC, a business focused on instruction and club fitting. And Torres, a Colorado native, won a Colorado Open and a state high school individual title among other championships in the Centennial State.
The six will be inducted next year on a date and at a site to be determined.
The only previous year when six people were inducted into the CGHOF was in 1976, when the honorees were Judy Bell, Noble Chalfant, Ed Dudley, Jim Haines, Gene Root and Oscar Zesch. The Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, founded in 1973, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
In addition to the inductions, five people will be recognized next year with Colorado Golf Hall of Fame honors: Jim Hillary (Golf Person of the Year); Kathy Walker (Lifetime Achievement), Mark Passey (Distinguished Service), and Charlie Tucker and Logan Hale (Future Famers). See below for their individual highlights.
Here are some of the golf-related accomplishments of the people who will be inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame next year:
This year has been unforgettable for Wyndham Clark, winner of the U.S. Open and another PGA Tour title.
— Wyndham Clark: Clark, a product of Valor Christian High School and Cherry Hills Country Club, has long been a formidable player on the PGA Tour, but he stepped up his game considerably this year, to the point that he’s now 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking. Winning twice on Tour in 2023, including once in a major, can do that.
In May, the 29-year-old became the first Colorado-born golfer since Jonathan Kaye in 2003 to record a PGA Tour victory as he prevailed in the Wells Fargo Championship. It was Clark’s first PGA Tour win, but certainly not the last as he demonstrated a month and a half later.
In June, Clark fended off Rory McIlroy to become the third player in the last half-century to grow up in Colorado and go on to win the U.S. Open as he joined Hale Irwin (a three-time champ) and Steve Jones in that elite club.
All that led to Clark becoming the first golfer since Irwin in 1991 to have graduated from a Colorado high school and then competed in the Ryder Cup.
Clark was born in Denver on Dec. 9, 1993. And he was an impressive player in Colorado and beyond as a teenager and young man. He won two Class 4A individual state titles while at Valor, including by shooting rounds of 64-64 at Pelican Lakes in 2011 as a senior. As a 15-year-old, he won the 2009 CGA Junior Stroke Play by 11 shots at Eaton Country Club, advanced to the final 16 at the U.S. Junior Amateur and placed third in the oldest boys division at the prestigious Callaway Junior World Championships in San Diego.
At age 16, Clark became the youngest winner of the CGA Stroke Play since 1971. He also qualified for the U.S. Amateur for the first of five times. After winning the prestigious Byron Nelson International Junior Golf Award in 2012, Clark went to national powerhouse Oklahoma State for his college golf. He ended up being a rare winner of two conference Player of the Year awards — in two different leagues: Big 12 POY at Oklahoma State (2014) and Pac-12 POY in 2017 after transferring to Oregon. In the spring portion of his senior season, Clark scored all three of his individual college victories. Most notably, he won the Pac-12 Conference individual title — and led Oregon to the team championship — in 2017 at Boulder Country Club, where he won the 2010 CGA Stroke Play.
Clark’s Oregon team advanced to the match-play final of the 2017 NCAA nationals, but fell to Oklahoma. Clark was one of the finalists for men’s college golfer of the year as a senior, but Mississippi’s Braden Thornberry won the award.
After turning pro and being a Web.com Tour regular in 2018, Clark earned his PGA Tour card that year by finishing in the top 25 on the Web.com’s regular-season money list.
Prior to his two wins this year, Clark’s best finish on the PGA Tour was a second place in a playoff at the 2020 Bermuda Championship.
— Jennifer Kupcho: Like Clark, Kupcho was born in Colorado, grew up in the state and wasted little time earning a tour card at the highest level. After turning pro almost immediately after wrapping up her college career at Wake Forest, Kupcho became a regular on the LPGA Tour. In 2020, she picked up her first pro victory at the Inspirato Colorado Women’s Open, fending off fellow LPGA Tour pro Carlota Ciganda. Then in 2022, Kupcho had a breakout year, winning three times on the LPGA circuit, including a major championship.
LPGA victory No. 1 came at the Chevron Championship, a women’s major, where she finished two strokes ahead of fellow American Jessica Korda. The victory is believed to be the first on the LPGA Tour by a Colorado native since Colorado Springs product Lauren Howe prevailed at the 1983 Mayflower Classic. Three and a half months later, Kupcho had added two more LPGA wins, which came at the Meijer LPGA Classic and the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational team event with Lizette Salas. Victory No. 3 came at the age of 25 years and 2 months for Kupcho.
In the middle of 2022, Kupcho reached as high as No. 9 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
In the years sandwiching her three-win season, Kupcho represented the U.S. in the Solheim Cup matches against Europe in both 2021 and ’23.
A native of Littleton and longtime resident of Westminster, Kupcho earned two state high school individual titles while attending Jefferson Academy — both times winning by double-digit margins. She was named the Colorado Female Junior Player of the Year three times (2012, ’13 and ’14), winning a girls Colorado Junior Amateur and two girls Colorado Junior PGA Championships. In 2015, she finished third in the Big I National Championship.
On three occasions, Kupcho was named the CGA/CWGA Women’s Player of the Year (2014, ’15 and ’16) and in ’17 she was given the CWGA’s highest honor, the President’s Award. She won the CGA Women’s Stroke Play three times — by margins of 21 shots, 19 and 13 — and the Match Play twice. Two times during her amateur years, she finished second overall in the Colorado Women’s Open.
In 2017, Kupcho was inducted into the Sportswomen of Colorado Hall of Fame, and two years later she was named the Colorado Amateur Athlete of the Year — regardless of sport or gender — by the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame. In 2022, she earned the Sportswomen of Colorado’s highest honor — Sportswoman of the Year, becoming just the third golfer to earn that status. She also landed Golf Person of the Year honors from the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2016, ’18 and ’22. Along with Dale Douglass, Kupcho was named a winner of the inaugural Hale Irwin Medal, which recognizes outstanding golfers who exhibit competitiveness, resiliency and a proven record of winning.
During her college golf career at Wake Forest, Kupcho won the women’s NCAA individual title — becoming the first Coloradan to do so — and finished in the top six at that national championship three times. In all, she won nine college tournaments. She also captured the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur title in 2019. Kupcho claimed her LPGA Tour card by finishing second at the LPGA Q-Series while still a senior at Wake Forest. She represented the U.S. on winning teams at the Curtis Cup, Arnold Palmer Cup and women’s World Amateur Team Championship (2018), finishing second individually in the world event.
Kupcho was the top-ranked women’s amateur in the world for 34 weeks. She became the first American woman to win the prestigious Mark H. McCormack Medal as the top women’s player in the World Amateur Golf Rankings as of the conclusion of U.S. Women’s Amateur (2018). She won the Canadian Women’s Amateur by five strokes the year before. She played in the U.S. Women’s Open twice as an amateur — and in the U.S. Women’s Amateur four times. She also qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior twice, the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links once and the U.,S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with Gillian Vance.
For the last several years, Kupcho has served as a global ambassador for Youth on Course, which provides YOC members access to rounds of golf for $5 or less at many courses in the U.S., Canada and Australia.
George Solich, as chairman and president of Castle Pines Golf Club, presented awards at the recent Drive Chip & Putt Regionals held at the course.
— George Solich: Solich, who grew up in Colorado Springs, has made a major impact on the Colorado golf scene in recent decades — whether as a philanthropist, supporter of youth caddies, or being a key reason for the PGA Tour to return to Colorado after long droughts.
Solich caddied at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and earned an Evans Scholarship to CU, eventually serving as president of the house for a year. He will become the fourth CU Evans Scholars alum to be inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, joining Mark Crabtree (2006), Tom Woodard (2013) and Gary Baines (2022).
Solich, a resident of Greenwood Village, fully funded the cost of hiring a Colorado Golf Association staffer that would cultivate Colorado-based candidates for the Evans Scholarship for caddies. Later, he and his older brother Duffy lent their names and considerable support to the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy, which was founded in 2012 at CommonGround Golf Course and has since expanded to eight chapters around the state. Forty caddies from the Academy have gone on to earn Evans Scholarships.
The Soliches were also driving forces behind the founding of The Broadmoor Caddie & Leadership Academy, which has produced another five Evans Scholars. The Academies promote the use of caddies through a subsidized system — by paying their base fees through an educational grant, with participating golfers having the option of adding a tip. Other key components are leadership and personal finance classes, and all participants do community-service work as part of the programs. George Solich also was a founder of the Colorado Golf Foundation, which he got off the ground with a large donation. The CGF has made significant contributions over the years to numerous youth-related golf organizations in Colorado.
In the years leading up to 2014 and 2024, George Solich played a pivotal role in bringing the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship to Colorado — nine years ago at Cherry Hills Country Club, and next year to Castle Pines Golf Club. All the net proceeds from the BMW Championship benefit the Evans Scholars Foundation. The 2014 event at Cherry Hills raised $3.5 million and was named the PGA Tour Tournament of the Year. In the wake of the 2014 BMW success, Solich was named Golf Person of the Year by the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. In recent years, Solich has served as chairman of the board and president of Castle Pines Golf Club.
Solich, founder, chairman and CEO of FourPoint Energy, was among those who provided major financial support for the building of the new Colorado Golf Hall of Fame Museum at The Broadmoor.
— Pat Hamill: Two decades ago, when the fate of the Colorado Open was hanging in the balance, it was Hamill who stepped up in a big way to reverse the fortunes of the championship. His support and organizational efforts resuscitated the Colorado Open — a once-proud event that was first held in 1964 but was skipped in 2003 due to mismanagement by the event’s previous organizers. Thanks to bringing together the various major stakeholders in Colorado golf, with their full support — and Hamill providing considerable financial backing — the event returned in 2004. And in recent years the three Colorado Open championships (the Inspirato Colorado Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open) have become the nation’s best of the best regarding state opens. That includes record-setting purses and first-place prize money ($250,000 and $100,000, respectively, for the Open and Women’s Open and $100,000 and $20,000, respectively, for the Senior Open).
As with fellow philanthropist Solich, Hamill was a major supporter — financial and otherwise — of the new Colorado Golf Hall of Fame Museum at The Broadmoor. Hamill, a Denver resident, is the longtime chairman and CEO of Oakwood Homes, which he founded. He was named the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame’s Golf Person of the Year in 2005.
Hamill, a graduate of the University of Denver, was also a founder of the Colorado Open Golf Foundation, and of the First Tee Green Valley Ranch in northeast Denver. In addition, he serves as a national trustee of the First Tee organization. Thanks in part to his work with the Jack Vickers Invitational, considerable money has been raised for Colorado Boys and Girls Clubs.
— Joe Assell: Assell is the man behind one of the big golf business success stories of recent decades. In the mid-1990s at Cherry Hills Country Club, he co-founded Colorado-based GOLFTEC, which has become one of the world leaders in golf instruction, club fittings and training systems. Assell continues to serve as the CEO of the company. GOLFTEC uses proprietary swing motion capture technology, which allows students to see real-time video and motion measurement simultaneously.
To give an indication of how successful Assell and his company have been, he ranks No. 21 on Golf Inc.’s list of the most powerful people in golf. And in early 2022, Assell was named the PGA of America’s national Golf Executive of the Year.
GOLFTEC now oversees more than 250 retail locations worldwide, and it has provided 16 million lessons or club fittings over the last 28 years. The business employs 1,200 golf professionals, and it’s believed that it’s the second-largest employer of PGA professionals in the world, behind Troon. Assell is a quarter-century member of the PGA of America.
In 2020, the Colorado PGA presented Assell with its Warren Smith Award for lifetime achievement. Also from the Section over the years, he’s been the recipient of the following honors: Golf Professional of the Year, the Bill Strausbaugh Award (for mentorship of PGA professionals), the Vic Kline Award (for outstanding service to the Section’s board) and the Teacher of the Year Award.
Assell has been a member at Cherry Hills Country Club for the last 20 years.
— The late Gene Torres spent much of his life in New Mexico — indeed, the Gene Torres Golf Course, located in Las Vegas, N.M., is named for him — but he accomplished plenty in Colorado as well. In the Centennial State, among Torres’ accomplishments are winning the boys state high school individual title in 1956 while competing for Trinidad H.S., and capturing the Colorado Open championship in 1972 at Hiwan Golf Club. Torres was also runner-up at the Colorado Open the year before — to Dave Hill, who had already won eight times on the PGA Tour. Overall in the 1970s alone, Torres recorded six top-10s at the Colorado Open. Also, he earned Rocky Mountain Open titles in Grand Junction in 1965 and ’67, and Navajo Trail Open victories in Durango three times.
Nicknamed “the Rock”, Torres was born in Trinidad in 1937, attended Adams State College in Colorado briefly and passed away in Las Vegas, N.M., in 2005. In 2022, he was inducted into the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame. The onetime caddie finished 10th — tied with Jack Nicklaus — at the 1955 National Jaycee youth tournament. In 1953 and ’55, he won the Colorado Jaycee event. After one semester at Adams State, he served in the U.S. Navy.
Overall, Torres won 80-plus pro tournaments. He served as a golf pro at New Mexico Highlands University’s golf course — and was a Physical Education professor — for 43 years. He also coached the golf team for two decades. He won the New Mexico Open five times from 1968 to ’84, and qualified for the U.S. Open in 1973.
In 2004 Torres received a distinguished honor from the Sun Country Section of the PGA of America, which presented him a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Here’s some golf-related background on the recipients of the awards the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame will present in 2024:
— Jim Hillary (Golf Person of the Year): Hillary served as the championship chair for the 2023 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club, an event which marked just the fifth time the U.S. Am has been held in Colorado. The championship was very well attended, drew accolades from participants and spectators alike, and crowned a big-time champion in Nick Dunlap, at the time the No. 9-ranked amateur in the world. In addition to the success of the championship itself, Cherry Hills announced during tournament week that it was donating $500,000 each to the Evans Scholars Foundation, the Colorado chapters of First Tee, and the Palmer Scholarship Foundation — all prominent golf-related youth organizations with Colorado ties.
— Kathy Walker (Lifetime Achievement): Walker has played crucial organizational roles for several USGA championships hosted by Cherry Hills Country Club. In addition to the 1990 and 2012 U.S. Amateurs and the 1993 U.S. Senior Open, that includes this year’s U.S. Amateur. As noted above, the 2023 U.S. Am was a big hit with competitors and fans alike, with about 6,000 people attending on the final day.
— Mark Passey (Distinguished Service): Passey, a retired longtime USGA regional affairs director, played an essential role in the creation of the new Colorado Golf Hall of Fame Museum at The Broadmoor. The Utah Golf Hall of Famer, who now serves on the board of directors for the CGHOF, spent countless hours on the planning and physical creation of the museum at The Broadmoor, after coming up with the idea of moving it to the resort and raising support for the project. The $1.6 million facility opened to rave reviews in April. The museum, located in the building that houses The Broadmoor’s golf shop, is free and open to the public on a self-guided basis.
— Charlie Tucker (Male Future Famer): The golfer from Castle Pines won two big-time junior titles in Colorado in 2023: the boys championship at the CGA State Junior, and the 5A state high school tournament. In addition, in his final high school tournament, he led his Rock Canyon team to its first boys state team championship. His individual margin of victory at state was six strokes as he closed with a 67 for a 6-under-par total. Tucker also represented Colorado at the Junior America’s Cup, placing 31st individually.
— Logan Hale (Female Future Famer): Hale, a resident of Erie, won the girls 4A state high school individual title and was the only Coloradan to qualify for the U.S. Girls’ Junior that was hosted by Eisenhower Golf Club at the Air Force Academy. Hale won the 4A crown by eight strokes individually and led Erie to the state team title for the second consecutive year. Less than a month later, she earned medalist honors in Colorado-based qualifying for the U.S. Girls’ Junior, where she fell short of advancing to the 64-player match-play portion of the event. Hale later represented the Centennial State at the Girls Junior Americas Cup, finishing 34th.
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 ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates ColoradoGolfJournal.com