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Feast on This

There are plenty of Colorado golf-related reasons to be grateful this Thanksgiving

by Gary Baines - 11/22/2017

When thinking about Thanksgiving, one of the first things that comes to mind for many people is turkeys.

But for the purposes of this Thanksgiving story, there isn't a turkey in the bunch. After all, this is about reasons to giving thanks, Colorado golf-style.

The list is plenty long, so without further ado, let's consider the things and people for which Colorado golfers can be thankful:

-- Scenic Courses: Many areas of the country have distinctive-looking, beautiful courses, but Colorado can hold its own with the best of them. Anyone who has seen the likes of Arrowhead, Sanctuary, The Broadmoor (left), Fox Acres, Lakota Canyon, Perry Park, Red Sky and countless others can attest as much.

-- Weather: Sure, there are mid-winter days with snow on the ground and golf is the furthest thing from your mind, but the prime season here features near-ideal conditions much of the time. And there's more days than non-Coloradans think that skiing and playing golf in the same day is possible. And this Thanksgiving, it's expected to reach 70-plus degrees in the Denver metro area. So feel free to tee it up after feasting.

-- Cost of Golf: There's no lack of quality Colorado courses where a person can play 18 holes for $30 or $35. Add another $10 and the numbers jump considerably. That isn't the case in many areas of the country.

-- CGA, CWGA Joining Forces: While the impetus for the CGA and CWGA teaming up and becoming one state golf association was a USGA directive, the bet here is that the end result will be efficiently and ably serving all members, male and female, for many, many years to come.

-- Jennifer Kupcho: It's not often that young Colorado golfers with the promise of Westminster resident Jennifer Kupcho come around -- maybe once every two or three decades. In women's golf, the last Coloradan with comparable accomplishments at a similar age was probably Jill McGill, who won two USGA championships in the 1990s before embarking on a long LPGA Tour career. Kupcho (left), who's ranked No. 3 among the world's female amateur golfers, finished second this year in the NCAA Finals and 21st overall as an amateur in the U.S. Women's Open. In her case, the sky's the limit.

-- Big-Time Events on the Horizon: While there's reason to miss an annual PGA Tour stop in Colorado after The International was held for 21 years at Castle Pines, there are several upcoming events to whet the appetite of golf fans: the 2018 U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, the 2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, and an annual Tour stop at the new TPC Colorado course in Berthoud starting in 2019.

-- Courses Ranked Among the Best: Coloradans who have had the pleasure of playing at Castle Pines Golf Club, Ballyneal and Cherry Hills shouldn't be surprised, but all three were ranked among the top 75 courses in Golf Digest's biennial list of "America's 100 Greatest Golf Courses." That list is considered the gold standard among golf course rankings.

-- New Course Debuting: While a person could argue there's no need for new courses in Colorado given the net loss thereof the state has experienced in the last decade, the aforementioned TPC Colorado in Berthoud that will likely open around June 1 is intriguing given the TPC backing, the unique aspects of the course and the plan to host a Tour event there for at least five years beginning in 2019.

-- State Opens Second to None: CoBank has stepped up to the plate in a big way over the last two years in doubling the purse sizes and increasing the winners' portions to $100,000 and $50,000 for the Colorado Open and Colorado Women's Open, respectively. That puts the tournaments in a category of their own compared to other state opens.

-- Great People: Having been in the sports writing business for more than three decades, I can say that there are extremely nice, impeccably honest, generous, well-mannered athletes and coaches in all sports. But golf takes a back seat to none of them in that regard. Good examples are the late Les Fowler, who was recently inducted into the University of Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame, and John Hamer, a fellow Colorado Golf Hall of Famer and former Boulder Country Club member who passed away this year. And there are many young golfers in Colorado showing the same qualities, which bodes well for the future.

-- Giving Back: Speaking of generosity, John Ogden, the PGA head professional at Cherry Hills Country Club, demonstrated plenty immediately after winning the Colorado PGA Professional Championship in September. He earned $8,000 for that victory, and told CPGA executive director Eddie Ainsworth that he was donating half of that total to the Colorado PGA REACH Foundation.

-- Rich History. This year marked the 50th anniversary of Columbine Country Club hosting the 1967 PGA Championship that Don January won and where Jack Nicklaus finished a stroke out of a playoff. That's one of six men's major championships that have been held in the state, including the 1960 U.S. Open that Arnold Palmer won at Cherry Hills. On the women's side, Colorado has hosted four majors, with winners including Babe Zaharias and Annika Sorenstam.

-- Outstanding Associations: Colorado is fortunate to be home to some of the better golf associations in the nation. Besides the CGA and the CWGA, that includes the Colorado PGA and the Rocky Mountain Golf Course Superintendents Association, among others. All of them do Colorado proud.

-- Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado: The JGAC was formalized just a couple of years ago, but it's proven to be a big-time winner for junior golfers in the state and beyond. Founding partners from the CGA and the Colorado PGA, with the help of the CWGA, have developed an organization where young golfers of any ability can come to get their needs addressed.

-- Mark Passey. After 27 years as a USGA regional affairs director -- including the last 11 while based in Colorado -- Mark Passey retired this year. The Utah Golf Hall of Famer (left) served the region -- and the game in general -- very well.

-- Impending Colorado Golf Hall of Famers: Speaking of people who have been admirable stewards of the game locally, the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame is honoring a very worthy pair after voting Jim Bunch and Danny Harvanek in for induction. Bunch has devoted countless hours of voluntary service at some of the highest levels of golf in this country, and Harvanek certainly has lived up to the award he won in 2007 as the PGA of America's Junior Golf Leader.

-- Golf Volunteers: While noting Bunch's work as a volunteer, we'd be remiss not to mention the role played by all of the golf volunteers in Colorado. It's no exaggeration to say that without them, Colorado golf would be a shell of what it is today.

-- Local Tour Players for Whom to Root: It's always fun to see players who honed their game while growing up in Colorado go on to big things by competing on the world's top professional tours. In that vein, this year we've watched Brandt Jobe win for the first time on the PGA Tour Champions; Wyndham Clark make a couple of cuts on the PGA Tour after winning the 2017 Pac-12 title in Colorado, and Jim Knous compete regularly on the Tour.

-- Other Great Stories: Besides the aforementioned, it was fun following as Davis and Emma Bryant combined to win a "Bryant Slam" in JGAC majors in 2017; as former Fort Collins resident Sam Saunders shot a 59 on the Tour; and as two-time PGA Tour winner Jonathan Kaye claimed his second CoBank Colorado Open title 21 years after his first.

-- Having 2 College Player of the Year Finalists: This may never happen again, but in 2017 both a male and a female golfer from Colorado were among the finalists for the national college golfer of the year awards, as Wyndham Clark and Jennifer Kupcho did the honors.

-- Giving Juniors a Leg Up: There are plenty of worthwhile golf-related programs that provide kids an opportunity to help themselves. Three of those in Colorado that make a big-time difference in youngsters' lives are the Evans Scholarship for caddies, which has a chapter house at the University of Colorado; The First Tee program; and the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy.

-- Homer McClintock: While noting the Evans Scholarship above, one of people who played a key role in developing the chapter at CU was Coloradan Homer McClintock, who passed away this fall just 11 days shy of turning 100 years old. Besides his considerable work on behalf of Colorado caddies, McClintock served as a volunteer on the CGA Board of Governors for almost two decades.

-- The New and Different: It's interesting to see novel concepts come on the horizon, including in the golf realm. This year, for instance, the inaugural Major Series of Putting was held in Las Vegas. And, competing against a field in the All Pro Championship that included Brad Faxon, John Cook, Tommy Armour III and Cole Knost, Cole Nygren of Longmont claimed the title. Take that, Tour pros.

All in all, there's plenty for Colorado golfers to feast on this Thanksgiving -- and leftovers to boot.

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