Still Calling GVR Home

Even after sale of courses at Green Valley Ranch GC, Inspirato Colorado Open Championships will continue to be played at GVR at least through 2026; recent Epson Tour winner leads after day 1 of CO Women’s Open

By Gary Baines – 5/29/2024

DENVER — With the May 15 sale of the courses at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club — by impending Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Pat Hamill to White Plains, N.Y.-based LCP Group, a real estate investment manager  — one of the natural questions is, what will happen to the Inspirato Colorado Open Championships that have been played at GVR for the past 20 years?

The answer for the near future — at least through 2026 — is, they’re staying put.

Kevin Laura, CEO of the Colorado Open Golf Foundation, said on Wednesday that the Inspirato Colorado Women’s Open, Colorado Open and Colorado Senior Open will continue to be contested at GVR through at least ’26, which coincides with the expiration of Inspirato’s current title-sponsor agreement regarding the championships.

“The new owners, LCP Group, in the sale agreement they agreed to keep hosting the tournaments for the same term as our Inspirato contract, which is through 2026,” Laura said. “But they’re really positive about having the First Tee (of Green Valley Ranch) on property and the championships as far as a good promotional marketing attraction for the course. And they’re having Matt (Bryant, the longtime PGA general manager at GVR) stay the course on everything else.”

The Colorado Open, which dates back to 1964, has been played at just five main courses — Hiwan Golf Club, Inverness Golf Club, Saddle Rock Golf Course, Sonnenalp Golf Club and GVR, with Hiwan (’64 through ’91) and Green Valley Ranch (2004 through now) being by far the longest hosts. (Note: Saddleback Golf Club was the round 2 course during the 2007 tournament.)

Meanwhile, the Colorado Women’s Open was first played in 1995, with venues Fox Hollow, Meridian and Valley hosting before GVR took over in ’04. (Note: Saddleback was utilized for round 1 in ’07.)

The Colorado Senior Open debuted in 1999, with Plum Creek and what’s now known as Walnut Creek Golf Preserve preceding GVR (2004 on) as hosts.

The bottom line is that the Inspirato Colorado Open Championships are now inextricably linked to GVR — and will remain so for at least through 2026.

“I’m really encouraged that it’s at least going to be three years, if not the long term after that, while we look to renew Inspirato or find a new title sponsor for ’27 and beyond,” Laura said. 

In the wake of the change in ownership, Laura is no longer the president of GVR Golf Club — a title he held since 2007. Bryant heads golf operations at the championship course and the accompanying par-3, answering to representatives from the LCP Group. But Laura will remain the CEO of the Colorado Open Golf Foundation, meaning he’ll stay with the First Tee GVR and be the point man for the Colorado Open Championships, working with Julie Bryant, who remains the tournament director, the COO of the Colorado Open Golf Foundation and the executive director of the First Tee GVR. And Laura is the managing founder/CEO of the new private country club and course Hamill is building in southern Aurora, at E-470 and Parker Road. Dirt will start to be moved on that project this summer, with a planned opening date of 2027. 

“I stay on as the CEO of the foundation for as long as the board will have me,” Laura said. “Even with the new course, I’m still going to be doing the Carmel Classic (charity event in California) and the First Tee  and Colorado Opens until that time (2027) — and I hope longer if I can hang in there and don’t have a heart attack,” he added with a laugh.

With things starting to crank up regarding the new country club in south Aurora — which remains unnamed at this point — Laura and Barry Kendall, the former longtime director of agronomy at GVR, will be part of the leadership team at the new facility (specifically, Kendall will be director of agronomy at the new course).

“With Matt and his entire staff staying on (at GVR) — and with Julie and us at the COGF team staying on — it’s really not going to look any different to us other than I’m not the boss (regarding golf operations at Green Valley Ranch GC) anymore,” Laura said. “I don’t represent Mr. Hamill the owner anymore (at GVR). Matt and everybody is still intact. It’s been very symbiotic with this group out of New York, and it’s really exciting because they’re not traditionally in the golf business so they’re really leaning on Matt to teach them, with how he’s been successful all these years.”

As for the First Tee GVR, things will remain status quo there. The GVR Metropolitan District owns the land the First Tee and the golf courses are situated on.

“We have a contract with (the metro district) that lasts through 2038,” Laura said. “Regardless of who is managing the course, we have a long-term deal with access to the par-3 and working out of the (First Tee) building. Even though Pat is not the owner anymore, we’re fine. That’s what’s really good. I think the new owners are going to be turned on by the tournaments (and the First Tee GVR). No one is going to be as generous as Pat, but they’re going to be good for the golf community.”

Meanwhile, Hamill, who played a big role in resuscitating the Colorado Open Championships after mismanagement by leadership in the early 2000s wreaked havoc, now not only has sold GVR Golf Club, but will be retiring as CEO of Oakwood Homes on June 14. Hamill founded Oakwood Homes but sold it in 2017.

“It’s a big move for him to let go of GVR golf course and to hand off Oakwood at the same time,” Laura said. “But (the new course in south Aurora) is his legacy project.”

— Round 1 Report from Colorado Women’s Open: Juliana Hung, a 22-year-old from Taiwan who won the Epson Tour’s IOA Championship a month ago, fired a 5-under-par 67 in the calmer afternoon conditions on Wednesday to grab a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Inspirato Colorado Women’s Open at GVR. Hung eagled the par-5 ninth hole and added five birdies and two bogeys on day 1. At the IOA Championship, Hung set the Epson Tour’s 54-hole scoring record, at 21 under par, which was good for a seven-stroke victory. A 31-year-old Epson Tour veteran, former UNLV golfer Dana Fall of Chandler, Ariz., holds down second place after a bogey-free 68. Conditions were very windy for the morning wave, when the best score was 70. … Maria Eidhagen Harrouch, a University of Colorado golfer from Sweden, leads the amateur competition after opening with a 2-under 70. Next best is University of Denver golfer Kaitlin Zingler from Lakewood, who carded a 72. Brenna Higgins of Centennial, who recently won her second straight 5A girls state high school individual title, is four out of the amateur lead. … Cypress Ascendant — represented by pro Katie Hollern of Sedalia and amateur Anthony Knight of Highlands Ranch — posted a 9-under-par score to lead the team competition by one. … Lauren Lehigh of Loveland, a 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur quarterfinalist who is making her pro debut this week, opened with a 76. … The top 42 championship players and ties after Thursday’s second round will make the cut and advance to Friday, when a $100,000 first prize will be up for grabs. … Play was interrupted for about 65 minutes on Wednesday afternoon by lightning in the area.

For all the scores from the Colorado Women’s 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. The University of Colorado Evans Scholar alum was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates