Colorado Highlights

With The Broadmoor hosting U.S. Senior Open during resort's centennial year, we reflect on other milestone anniversaries worth noting this year in Colorado golf

by Gary Baines - 2/5/2018

The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs is doubling up on celebrations this year as the 100th anniversary of its founding coincides with the resort hosting the U.S. Senior Open at the East Course from June 28-July 1.

With that in mind, we decided to take a trip down memory lane, looking back on milestone anniversaries of big golf tournaments held in Colorado or of feats accomplished by local golfers. In other words, things that happened exactly five, 10, 20, 25 years ago, etc.

So without further ado ...

-- 80 Years Ago (1938): Colorado hosted a major championship for the first time as the U.S. Open came to Cherry Hills Country Club. Only six men's majors have been contested in the Centennial State to this day, so this was no small matter.

The 1938 U.S. Open marked the first Open held west of Minneapolis. Will Nicholson Sr., a future mayor of Denver and the father of a future USGA president (Will Jr.), played a key role in luring the Open and was general chairman of the championship. He served on the USGA Executive Committee at the time.

Ralph Guldahl rallied with a final-round 69 to win by six strokes, successfully defending his title. His victory margin was the largest at the U.S. Open since 1921 and he'll go down as the last person to win a U.S. Open while wearing a necktie. Guldahl went on to supplement his two U.S. Open victories with a win in the Masters and three titles in the Western Open, which at the time was considered a major championship of sorts.

Cherry Hills drew about 37,000 people for the week, a big success at the time.

-- 70 Years Ago (1948): A PGA Tour event, the Denver Open, was held in the city on and off from 1947 to '63. Ben Hogan was by far the biggest name to win the event when he prevailed in 1948 at Wellshire Country Club.

The victory was Bantam Ben's sixth straight on the PGA Tour, and one of 10 he posted that year on the circuit, including the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

One oddity from that Denver Open: Hogan failed to show up for the trophy presentation. Believing his total wasn't going to be good enough for the title, he left shortly after finishing his final round, saying, "I can't win."

-- 70 Years Ago (1948): Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who moved to Colorado in 1943 with her Pueblo-born husband, George, won the first of her three U.S. Women's Opens in 1948. That year's Women's Open, conducted in Northfield, N.J., was just the third ever held.

Zaharias, a six-time AP Female Athlete of the Year who previously excelled at track and field, cruised to an eight-stroke victory over runner-up Betty Hicks. Zaharias, sometimes dubbed "Denver's Queen of the Fairways", recorded an even-par 300 total.

Zaharias, a co-founder of the LPGA, won 17 consecutive tournaments in 1946 and '47 while representing Park Hill Country Club. She also spent plenty of time at Lakewood Country Club.

In 1950, Zaharias prevailed at the Women's Western Open, a women's major at the time, at Cherry Hills.

-- 60 Years Ago (1958): Dow Finsterwald, who would later become a fixture as the director of golf at The Broadmoor, scored his lone victory in a major, winning the PGA Championship in Havertown, Pa. That was the first PGA conducted with a stroke-play format to determine the champion, but Finsty was also the runner-up in 1957 (to Lionel Hebert) when a 36-hole match play final was held.

Finsterwald (left), the 1957 Vardon Trophy winner as the tour player with the best season-long stroke average, finished two strokes better than Billy Casper in 1958. Finsterwald closed with a 67 for a 4-under 276 total and later that year earned the PGA's Player of the Year award.

-- 40 Years Ago (1978): Cherry Hills Country Club hosted the last of its three U.S. Opens to date. Two future World Golf Hall of Famers had won the 1938 and '60 editions (Ghezzi and Arnold Palmer), but this time around Andy North recorded the second of what would be just three PGA Tour victories, though two of them were in U.S. Opens. Few people can say they won more majors than non-majors on the PGA Tour, but North is one such person.

North tied Billy Casper's record (set in 1966) by needing just 114 putts over 72 holes, winning with a 1-over-par 285 total. He led outright after each of the final three rounds.

Also finishing in the top 10 in a star-studded leaderboard were University of Colorado alum Hale Irwin and Tom Weiskopf (tied for fourth), and Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Johnny Miller (tied for sixth).

-- 40 Years Ago (1978): The player with the most career wins on any major U.S. tour, Kathy Whitworth, earned one of her 88 LPGA Tour victories right here in the Centennial State.

Colorado hosted LPGA events for 16 consecutive years starting in 1972, and a dozen of the winners here became World Golf Hall of Famers. But none is higher on the totem pole than Whitworth, who won the 1978 National Jewish Hospital Open at Green Gables Country Club.

-- 25 Years Ago (1993): Speaking of the aforementioned Nicklaus and Weiskopf, two former Ohio State golfers, they finished 1-2 when Cherry Hills hosted the U.S. Senior Open in 1993.

Nicklaus, arguably the greatest golfer of all time, prevailed for what would be his last title in a USGA championship. Coincidentally, the first of his eight USGA championships also came in Colorado, in the 1959 U.S. Amateur at The Broadmoor.

Nicklaus (pictured at top with son/caddie Jackie) fended off Weiskopf by one stroke, recording a 6-under-par 278 total. It was the Golden Bear's second U.S. Senior Open title in three years.

-- 25 Years Ago (1993): Cherry Creek High School product Jill McGill made quite a run at USGA amateur championships in the early 1990s, winning two national titles. A quarter-century ago, McGill captured the trophy at the U.S. Women's Amateur. Then in 1994, when she was runner-up to Wendy Ward in the Women's Amateur, McGill earned the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links championship.

McGill (left) went on to a long career on the LPGA Tour, and though she never won on that circuit, she finished second three times and third twice.

Also in 1993, the Dunes Course at Riverdale in Brighton hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links, with David Berganio taking home the title.

-- 25 Years Ago (1993): Phil Mickelson, who three years earlier won the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills in Colorado, claimed the first of his two International PGA Tour events at Castle Pines. He scored an eight-point victory in Stableford points over Mark Calcavecchia.

-- 20 Years Years Ago (1998): Vijay Singh, like Mickelson now a World Golf Hall of Famer, beat Mickelson and Willie Wood by six points to put his name on The International trophy. All told, a half-dozen Hall of Famers won The International at least once.

-- 20 Years Ago (1998): Former CU athlete Hale Irwin won three U.S. Opens from 1974-90, but that wasn't the extent of his success in USGA championships. In 1998, the World Golf Hall of Famer won the first of his two U.S. Senior Opens, giving him five USGA championships in all.

In '98, Irwin withstood a formidable test at Riviera Country Club outside of Los Angeles. Since 1984, just two winners of the U.S. Senior Open have finished with over-par totals, with Irwin's 1-over tally in '98 joining Nicklaus' 2-over in '91.

Earlier in 1998, Irwin also won another one of his seven career senior majors, the Senior PGA Championship -- by six shots over Larry Nelson.

-- 10 Years Ago (2008): It's a rarity that Colorado hosts two USGA championships in the same year, but 2008 was such as year as the U.S. Senior Open came to The Broadmoor and the U.S. Amateur Public Links paid a visit to Murphy Creek Golf Course in Aurora.

In a U.S. Senior Open perhaps most remembered for the bear that ran across the course on national TV in the midst of play at The Broadmoor, the 2008 championship drew close to 130,000 people for tournament week. Eduardo Romero of Argentina claimed the trophy at the picturesque resort.

At Murphy Creek, Jack Newman won the title, but the field included Rickie Fowler and Billy Horschel, the latter of whom would go on to win the PGA Tour's BMW Championship at Cherry Hills in 2014.

-- 5 Years Ago (2013): The Solheim Cup, the female version of the Ryder Cup, came to the western U.S. for the first time, with Colorado Golf Club in Parker playing host. The course proved a formidable test, with the European squad handling the conditions best.

The Euros (left) won the Solheim Cup on American soil for the first time, and the 18-10 score was the largest final victory margin in the history of the event.

-- 5 Years Ago (2013): Then-Colorado resident Mark Wiebe won the first major championship of his career, claiming the title in the Senior British Open at Royal Birkdale in England.

To earn the win, Wiebe had to overcome one of the greatest senior players of all time, Bernhard Langer, beating the German in a playoff that lasted five holes. Wiebe closed with a 66, while Langer double bogeyed his final hole in regulation.

It marked the first Monday finish in Senior British Open history.

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