A Year to Remember

Kupcho, Clark, Bryants and the top 10 highlights of the local 2017 competitive golf season

by Gary Baines - 11/6/2017

The statewide competitive golf season in Colorado largely shuts down after October and doesn't crank up again until mid-spring, which makes this the perfect time for a little reflection on 2017.

As usual, there's plenty that makes the season special -- and that's true even in a year when no large-scale spectator golf tournaments pay a visit. The U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs no doubt will be high on this list for 2018, but that's for next fall.

Below are one observer's top 10 list of highlights of the 2017 tournament season and for Colorado-based golfers.

It's an understatement to say it's not often that two Colorado residents -- one man and one woman -- are among the national college golfer of the year finalists, but 2017 was such a year. So it's not surprising that our list starts with those two players.

1. The Kupcho Show: Jennifer Kupcho (pictured above) of Westminster continues to up her game, as this year has demonstrated. The fact that she's currently the No. 2-ranked women's amateur in the world says plenty. The Wake Forest golfer came ever so close to becoming the first Coloradan to win the women's individual NCAA Division I title, leading by two with two holes left before a triple bogey led to a runner-up finish. She quickly rebounded from that disappointment to qualify for her second straight U.S. Women's Open -- and then to finish 21st overall in arguably the most presigious women's golf tournament in the world. She also won her first national title, the Canadian Women's Amateur. Other victories included her third straight in the CWGA Stroke Play, and two wins this calendar year in college golf. She also placed second for the second straight time in the CoBank Colorado Women's Open.

2. Year to Remember for Clark: Although he previously came close on many occasions, Highlands Ranch resident Wyndham Clark (left) didn't score his first individual college victory until early in 2017. And that opened the floodgates for the then-University of Oregon senior, who posted three victories in his final 4 1/2 months as a collegian. One of those wins was a storybook ending as he prevailed at the Pac-12 Conference Championship in his home state, at Boulder Country Club, where he also won the 2010 CGA Amateur. With that strong final half of the season, Clark was named the 2017 Player of the Year in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, the Pac-12. That goes with the 2014 Big 12 Player of the Year honors he earned while at Oklahoma State. Then since turning pro in June, Clark has made two cuts on the PGA Tour, including a 17th-place finish on Oct. 29 at the Sanderson Farms Championship. This fall, he's also advanced to the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-school.

3. Bryant Slam: A junior golf oddity made this one of the top stories of the competitive season in the state. The Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado schedule features four major championships, and the Bryant siblings won their own version of a grand slam by combining to claim all four titles. Davis Bryant won all three in which he competed -- the Colorado Junior PGA, the Colorado Junior Amateur and the JGAC Tour Championship. And when he missed the Colorado Junior Match Play while he was competing in the national Junior PGA Championship -- where he placed 14th -- 14-year-old sister Emma pulled through for an improbable victory for the girls title. Davis Bryant went on to be named the boys JGAC Player of the Year after also winning the 5A state high school title, placing ninth individually in the Junior America's Cup and advancing to the match play round of 64 at his second U.S. Junior Amateur.

4. Kaye Wins 2nd Colorado Open, 21 Years After His First: Part-time Boulder resident Jonathan Kaye (left) hadn't competed in a tournament in three months, but that didn't stop the former University of Colorado golfer from winning the CoBank Colorado Open shortly before his 47th birthday. Kaye, a two-time PGA Tour winner who plays little tournament golf anymore, sank a 9-foot birdie putt on the final hole at Green Valley Ranch to post a one-stroke victory and earn the $100,000 first prize. Kaye, the runner-up in 2016, finished at 23-under par, which tied the tournament's scoring record, relative to par. He became just the seventh golfer to win at least two Colorado Open titles.

5. Jobe's Champions Breakthrough: Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Brandt Jobe came very close to winning on the PGA Tour during his time on that circuit, four times placing second, including at the 2005 International at Castle Pines. Then on the PGA Tour Champions, he finished third three times leading up to this past summer. But in June in Des Moines, Iowa, Jobe scored a breakthrough victory, prevailing in the PGA Tour Champions' Principal Charity Classic. Jobe, who lived in Colorado from 1970 to '99 before moving to Texas, also had a very strong record in senior majors in 2017, finishing second in the Senior Players, third in the U.S. Senior Open and eighth in the Senior PGA. He also matched the tournament record with a round of 62 at the U.S. Senior Open.

6. Workman's Stellar Summer: Glenn Workman had a summer to remember in state and regional tournaments in 2017. The Pueblo West resident became the first player in history to win the CGA Amateur and Wyoming State Amateur in the same year. The University of Wyoming golfer also scored low-amateur honors at the Rocky Mountain Open and the Wyoming State Open.

7. Timely 59 for Sam Saunders: Former Fort Collins resident Sam Saunders picked a good time for his career round. Saunders, grandson of the late Arnold Palmer, opened the Web.com Tour Championship with a 12-under-par 59 in Atlantic Beach, Fla., where he moved from Fort Collins last year. It was just the seventh round under 60 in the history of the Web.com circuit. More importantly, it led to a second-place finish in the Web Tour Championship, which secured Saunders' fully-exempt PGA Tour card for 2017-18 after he had lost that status late in the summer.

8. Seniors Rule the Day: The Colorado PGA Professional Championship is the top tournament of the year for the Section. But this year's event, held at Red Sky Golf Club in Wolcott, turned into a showcase for the 50-and-over set as 50-year-old John Ogden (left) prevailed in a playoff over 64-year-old Rick Cole, who was ever so close to becoming the oldest winner of this event -- by far. As it was, Ogden earned the $8,000 first prize, then promptly donated half of that total to the Colorado PGA REACH Foundation.

9. Age No Problem for Schalk: Hailey Schalk of Erie was only 15 years old during the 2017 golf season, but that didn't keep her from becoming the girls Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado's Player of the Year. In 2017, Schalk became the first Coloradan to win a title at the prestigious AJGA Hale Irwin Colorado Junior. And in May, she became the first freshman since 2002 to win a girls state high school individual championship in Colorado. In addition, she captured the titles at both of the JGAC majors in which she competed. She also placed 14th individually while competing for Colorado at the Girls Junior America's Cup. Schalk and Davis Bryant were recently named "Future Famers" by the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.

10. Longmont's Nygren Inaugural Putting Champ: Longmont's Cole Nygren, a pro for just a couple of months, earned a nice paycheck ($15,000) and plenty of publicity with his Halloween victory in the All Pro Championship at the inaugural Major Series of Putting in Las Vegas. The most eye-catching part of the win was the fact that it came against a field that featured PGA Tour veterans Brad Faxon, John Cook, Tommy Armour III and Colt Knost. Nygren, who place fourth in the CGA Amateur in August to conclude his amateur career, beat Knost, the 2007 U.S. Amateur champion, 3 and 2 in the match-play finale.

-- Honorable Mention: Colorado Springs resident Kaden Ford became just the fourth Coloradan in five years to qualify for the national finals of the Drive Chip & Putt Championship, hosted by Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia on the eve of the Masters. Ford will be among 80 contestants on April 1. ... Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Kim Eaton captured her fifth CWGA Senior Stroke Play title, with this being her third winning margin of at least 10 shots. She completed a sweep of the major CWGA senior titles (Senior Match Play and Senior Stroke Play) for the third time. ... 2016 CGA Les Fowler Player of the Year Kyler Dunkle scored his first individual college victory -- and did it in his home state -- as the University of Utah junior prevailed in the University of Colorado's Mark Simpson Invitational in Erie in late September. Dunkle closed with a 64 at Colorado National. ... Another former CGA Player of the Year, David Oraee, claimed the title in the Wyoming State Open, posting his first professional victory. ... Colorado State University's men's golf team won its own Ram Masters Invitational team championship for the fourth consecutive year. ... Former CU golfer Sebastian Heisele has posted two top-five finishes -- a third and a fourth -- in his rookie year on the European Tour. ... The Colorado PGA defeated the CGA/CWGA amateurs -- a team playing without college-age golfers for the first time -- in the final Colorado Cup Matches that will be held until 2019. ... The University of Denver women's golf team won two team titles in a span of just 11 days. ... The Mile High Showdown World Long Drive event at Park Hill produced drives of 485 yards for the men and 406 yards for the women. ... CU teammates Esther Lee and Brittany Fan shared stroke-play medalist honors in the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball before falling in the round of 16 of match play.

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