Title TIME

After stellar showing in victory over CO Open runner-up, Matthew Wilkinson will face Tyler Tyson for CGA Match Play crown; Cherry Creek  grads Calli Ringsby and Kaylee Chen will square off in Women’s Match Play finale

By Gary Baines – 6/13/2024

After four days of competition, the oldest CGA championships are down to two finalists each. Getting to that point on Thursday at Lakewood Country Club produced its fair share of notable storylines:

— Matthew Wilkinson of Lone Tree Golf Club, a junior-to-be on the Colorado State golf team, defeated one of the top amateurs in Colorado golf — and a guy who recruited him to CSU —  Parker Edens, 4 and 3 in Thursday’s semifinals of the 124th CGA Match Play. Edens, runner-up in the Inspirato Colorado Open and a quarterfinalist in the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2023, has now finished second twice (2012 and ’13) and been a semifinalist the last two years in the CGA Match Play. 

Wilkinson also faced a very familiar fellow golfer in the morning quarterfinals, overcoming a very good friend, Blake Williams of Bear Creek Golf Club, 1 up.

“This morning I played my buddy. We grew up playing together. That was a fun morning,” Wilkinson said. “And obviously Parker is a really good player. He’s got a pretty stout resumè when you look at it. I knew it was going to be tough; it wasn’t going to be easy. I just thought, stick to my game out there, try to hit it as good as I can, make some putts and see what happens. Play the course and don’t get too worried about who I was playing, and play good golf.”

Mission accomplished.

CSU golfer Matthew Wilkinson tees off for Thursday’s semifinals.

— Facing Wilkinson in Friday’s 36-hole final at Lakewood CC will be Tyler Tyson of Fossil Trace Golf Club, who put together a remarkable rally late Thursday afternoon to beat a player who he anticipates will be a teammate at Fort Lewis College next season, Carson Kerr of Tiara Rado/Lincoln Park. Kerr led 3 up through 10 holes of their semifinal, but Tyson won five of the next six holes (four with birdies) en route to prevailing 2 and 1. In the quarterfinals, Tyson birdied the last two holes to top University of Northern Colorado golfer Westin Pals, 2 up.

“The front nine I was playing good golf and he wasn’t really making mistakes,” said Tyson, who played for Regis University this past semester before the university cut its men’s and women’s golf programs. “But I made (three) birdies in a row and got the momentum going. From there, it was smooth sailing. I found my groove.

“I had a couple of bad bounces on 9 and 10. I just kept telling myself I was playing good enough golf. Then they just started dropping for birdies. I felt like I was kind of paid off after the bad luck I had earlier.”

Tyler Tyson rolls in a birdie put on No. 12 Thursday afternoon.

Asked if making it to the final is his biggest golf accomplishment, the Arvada West High School graduate said, “Yes. Not even close. … I had a pretty average junior career. Since then, I’ve worked on my mental game. I’m definitely a late bloomer, I would say. Everything started to click this last year.”

Regarding facing Wilkinson in Friday’s final, Tyson said, “I played with him a little in junior golf. I know he’ll be 100 (yards) past me tomorrow.”

Calli Ringsby will try to become the oldest winner of the CGA Women’s Match Play in 20 years.

— Meanwhile, defying the odds, both golfers in the championship match of the 109th CGA Women’s Match Play are graduates of Cherry Creek High School: Calli Ringsby of CommonGround Golf Course and New Mexico State golfer Kaylee Chen of the Club at Inverness. Both are former girls Players of the Year in Colorado, Ringsby in 2012 (she also won a 5A girls state high school individual title in 2013) and Chen in 2022. They’ll square off in Friday’s 36-hole Women’s Match Play finale at LCC.

“I actually played with her (Ringsby’s) mom (Joanna, in the pod play at CommonGround Golf Course that preceded the quarterfinals),” Chen said after a 7 and 6 semifinal win over Grace Dunkleberger, a University of Wyoming golfer. “She’s awesome and I did meet Calli. Her mom was like, ‘You guys will most likely end up playing each other (in the championship bracket).’ She was right. I was kind of expecting it. It’s match play; anything can happen. I’m really excited to play with one of the best.” 

Ringsby, the top seed after the pod-play portion of the event, defeated University of Montana golfer Elle Higgins 4 and 2 in the quarterfinals. And since 24 players — rather than a full field of 32 — participated in the Women’s Match Play, only six players advanced to the quarterfinals, thus giving the winner of the Ringsby-Higgins match a bye in the semifinals. Ringsby was all too happy to be able to skip Thursday afternoon’s round ahead of Friday’s 36-hole final.

“I don’t know the last time I played three days in a row of golf (prior to this event),” said Ringsby, a former Stanford golfer who heads product organization at SwingU, a golf app. “It’s been a little bit. Not having to play 36 today, and having 36 coming up tomorrow, I’m definitely feeling lucky to get the bye. I’m going to rest up and hopefully come out fresh tomorrow.”

Kaylee Chen gives a little body English to her par try on No. 10 Thursday afternoon.

That might especially be the case given that Ringsby is coming off a hand injury. In September at CommonGround, she tore three muscles in the back of her right hand. 

“So I haven’t played too much golf this year. It took me out for like seven months (though she avoided surgery). I wasn’t sure how this week was going to go,” the 28-year-old said. “But luckily my swing is feeling pretty good. Now it’s feeling totally fine, which is great. No problems there. I’m glad that’s not lingering.” 

On the men’s side, Wilkinson had to play some pretty stellar golf to beat Edens 4 and 3. In fact, he made seven birdies in 15 holes, clinching the victory with a 30-foot birdie on No. 15, after which he was 6 under par. Wilkinson saw the ninth hole as particularly pivotal. There, Edens hit his approach on the par-4 to 2 1/2 feet, then Wilkinson answered by leaving his ball 4 feet from the cup. Both players made their birdie putts, with Wilkinson remaining 1 up.

“That was kind of a crucial point because if I lose the hole it’s going all square going into the back nine,” Wilkinson said. “I gained a little momentum at that point.” 

Parker Edens, a semifinalist for the second straight year, couldn’t believe his birdie attempt on No. 10 didn’t fall.

Wilkinson — a 20-year-old who won four junior majors in the state, including the 2022 CGA State Junior — went 4 under the first six holes of the back nine to not leave Edens any big openings.

“It means a lot,” Wilkinson said of his run to the finals. “I’ve had a rough last year or so — a lot of ups and downs. To see all the hard work I’ve put in over the last year, I’m glad it’s moving in the right direction.”

As for Chen in the Women’s Match Play, she feels a bit of redemption after what happened to her two years ago in this event.

“It feels really good, especially after the last time I played,” she said. “I made it to the quarterfinals as well, but I missed a short putt on the last hole to lose the match (1 up to Logan Hale), so this was a really nice turnaround.

“I actually wasn’t going to play this tournament, but I decided for me it’s more (about building) confidence — and match play is very different than stroke play. You can be more aggressive on certain holes. So I think this will really help my game and help for tomorrow. … I’m glad I played this tournament.”

In her quarterfinal on Thursday, Chen trailed for much of the match to Rylee Salome of Metro Denver e-Club, but the 20-year-old Parker resident tied things with a 7-foot birdie on No. 15, then prevailed 1 up with a winning downhill par putt from 4 feet on No. 18. Chen had hit her tee shot there too far right, but despite advice from her dad/caddie to the contrary, she elected to chance hitting a large tree with her approach, with a pond guarding the front of the green.

“I had the tree in my way,” she said. “My dad wanted me to lay up, but I was like, ‘No. I’m going to go for it.’ I hit the branches but it got through and I ended up just short of the green,” a spot from which she got up and down.

Some ducks were beating the heat Thursday at Lakewood CC.

“It was a really, really intense last four holes,” Chen said. “I feel like I’ve been in those situations before where I can learn from it instead of getting really nervous. I think my experience really helped me.

“Ever since my junior seasons, I haven’t been playing as good as I used to play. I think it was a huge mental block for me. That’s why I decided to play this tournament because it would boost that confidence. I’m glad it paid off. It ended up working out.”

In Ringsby’s case, while she used to be in Chen’s position — playing college golf — these days she tries to keep her game sharp while holding down a full-time job — albeit a golf-related one. 

Noting she had played Lakewood Country Club just once before Thursday, Ringsby explained, “I couldn’t get in a practice round yesterday. I figured I might get fired from my job if I play golf every day this week.”

Should Ringsby win on Friday, at 28 she’d become the oldest champion at the CGA Women’s Match Play since Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Kim Eaton in 2004.

Asked what a title would mean to her, Ringsby said, “I would be incredibly happy and very proud of myself. Having decided not to play pro and taking some years off but still pushing myself to be competitive and play in these competitive events, it’s always uncomfortable. It definitely pushes my growth edge, which is what I love. If I can come out and play well tomorrow and possibly even win, that would be a huge accomplishment for me.”

Colin Prater of Cherokee Ridge Golf Course, the 2020 Match Play champion and a two-time CGA Player of the Year, was originally in the field for this week’s men’s championship, but withdrew after qualifying for the U.S. Open.

Past winners of the CGA Match Play include Hale Irwin, Steve Jones, Brandt Jobe and Kevin Stadler. The Women’s Match Play champs include Jennifer Kupcho, Paige Spiranac, Becca Huffer and Alison Whitaker. 


Thursday’s Quarterfinals

Parker Edens, Northern Colorado e-Club, def. Luke Cushman, Meridian GC, 3 and 1

Matthew Wilkinson, Lone Tree GC, def. Blake Williams, Bear Creek GC, 1 up

Tyler Tyson, Fossil Trace GC, def. Westin Pals, TPC Craig Ranch, 2 up

Carson Kerr, Tiara Rado/Lincoln Park def. Gavin Crowley, Columbine CC, 23 holes

Thursday’s Semifinals

Matthew Wilkinson, Lone Tree GC, def. Parker Edens, Northern Colorado e-Club, 4 and 3

Tyler Tyson, Fossil Trace GC, def. Carson Kerr, Tiara Rado/Lincoln Park, 2 and 1

Friday’s Scheduled 36-Hole Final

Matthew Wilkinson, Lone Tree GC, vs. Tyler Tyson, Fossil Trace GC, 7:11 a.m.

For all the results from the Match Play, CLICK HERE.


Thursday’s Quarterfinals

Calli Ringsby, CommonGround GC, def. Elle Higgins, Colorado GC, 4 and 2

Kaylee Chen, Club at Inverness def. Rylee Salome, Metro Denver e-Club, 1 up

Grace Dunkleberger, University of Denver GC at Highlands Ranch, def. Lauren Gooding, Colorado National GC, 1 up

Thursday’s Semifinals

Calli Ringsby, CommonGround GC wins (no players in opposing quadrant of bracket)

Kaylee Chen, Club at Inverness def. Grace Dunkleberger, University of Denver GC at Highlands Ranch, 7 and 6

Friday’s Scheduled 36-Hole Final

Calli Ringsby, CommonGround GC vs. Kaylee Chen, Club at Inverness, 7 a.m.

For all the results from the Women’s Match Play, 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