This is the fourth in our debut year of bi-monthly series on the Colorado Men’s Golf Program. Features will be varied, from alumni interviews to topics of the day, etc. This feature highlights CU’s inductees and others honored by the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame, which on November 18 held its 50th Anniversary Gala at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. It included an awesome “fireside” chat with former Buffaloes Hale Irwin and Steve Jones, along with professionals Hollis Stacy and Craig Stadler (complete with a fake fireplace and emceed by KUSA-TV’s Tom Green). Some excerpts later in story.
The Broadmoor is the new location of Colorado’s Golf Hall of Fame; it previously for years had been located at Riverdale Dunes in Brighton, but outgrew the facility. There are 20 with CU ties who have been honored by the Hall for their careers, contributions to the game or afforded prestigious awards in association with the game of golf. Those include 14 inducted into the Hall of Fame:
Hale Irwin (inducted 1974)
Joan Birkland (inducted 1977; Golf Person of the Year 1995)
Dale Douglass (inducted 1977; Golf Person of the Year 1986)
Les Fowler (inducted 1978)
Robert Kirchner (inducted 1982; Golf Person of the Year 1975 & 1978)
Larry McAtee (inducted 1992)
Steve Jones (inducted 1997; Golf Person of the Year 1989)
Ray Stenzel (inducted 1998)
Larry Webb (inducted 2000)
John Hamer (inducted 2002)
Mark Crabtree (inducted 2006)
Tom Woodard (inducted 2013; Golf Person of the Year 1997)
M.J. Mastalir (inducted 2017; Distinguished Service Award, 1995)
Gary Baines (inducted 2022)
The most prominent are CU’s U.S. Open champions, Irwin (1974, 1979 and 1990) and Jones (1996), but those four wins are just the icing on the cake when it comes to everything this select group has on their resumes.
Irwin, of course, was also the 1967 NCAA individual champion, winning 20 times on the PGA Tour and on 45 occasions on the Senior/Champions circuit. The all-time CU leader in tournaments won (four), he racked up two medalist honors in Big 8 Conference play, winning the 1966 title outright and sharing the ’67 crown when he was a first-team All-American. He is one of just five players to have led the Buffs in average three or more seasons. He earned a combined six letters in football and golf; after playing quarterback as a sophomore, he became a two-time first-team all-Big Eight selection at weak side safety in 1965 and 1966, making nine interceptions (in 1989, he was selected to the 25-member All-Century Football Team for CU’s first 100 years of football). In addition to the 65 combined Tour wins, he had 18 other professional victories including international play. He is one of the most dominant performers in Champions Tour history, with 211 top 10 finishes; in addition to the 45 wins, he had 43 runner-up finishes and 23 third place efforts, or 111 top three performances.
Jones set numerous school records during his CU career, in which he became the first and only player in school history to record four top 10 finishes in the conference championship meet (two thirds and two sevenths in four Big 8 title meets). A second-team All-American as a senior in 1980-81, when he had nine top 10 finishes and ten top 20 efforts, which are both still school bests. He won eight times on the PGA Tour, none bigger than his 1996 U.S. Open title; that pinnacle achievement earned him the Tour’s Comeback Player of the Year honor. His win in the 1997 Phoenix Open was landmark, as his 11-shot victory was accomplished by scoring the third lowest 72-hole score in PGA history at the time (a 26-under 258). Injuries plagued him throughout much his career, but he still competes occasionally on the Champions Tour.
Douglass, who passed away in July 2022 at the age of 86, starred on the PGA Tour after turning pro in 1960, winning three events and had four top 20 finishes in golf’s majors. A member of the Champions Tour once he turned 50 in 1986, he had 11 victories and 26 runner-up finishes; he played in exactly 600 Champions Tour events, with 151 top 10 finishes (with 283 in the top 25) and made the cut an astonishing 567 times. At CU, he was just the second Buffalo to be named first-team all-conference twice. The Fort Morgan native never forgot his roots, high school or college, and was always generous with his time and finances for both.
Irwin, Jones and Douglass along with Woodard are all members of CU’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Those are among the top playing performances on the professional level of the group, but by no means diminish the accomplishments of the others.
Birkland attended CU well before there was a women’s golf program, otherwise she surely would have been the team’s star. She had numerous wins in CWGA match and stroke play competitions (six combined, with five runner-up efforts as well). In 1962, she was awarded the Robert Russell award as the outstanding amateur athlete in the state. She helped bring back from dormancy Sportswomen of Colorado in 1995, serving as its executive director for the organization which annually honors the top female athletes in the state across a variety of sports, and was also was appointed active with the USGA Women’s Committee, serving as chair and vice-chair with the group. She also excelled in tennis, as she was a three-time Denver amateur singles champion, and won state tennis titles thrice as well. She continued to play golf until she passed away in June 2019 at the age of 90,
As a senior, Fowler tied for fourth in the first Big 7 Conference championship meet Colorado ever played in. Following his graduation, he would coach the Buffaloes on a volunteer basis for a total of 29 seasons. His top players out of over 125 that played for him included Douglass, Irwin, Hamer, McAtee, Woodard, Crabtree, Gary Polumbus, Bill Musselman and the man who succeeded him as coach, Mark Simpson. His teams won three conference titles and reached the NCAA Championships seven times, with the 1968 team posting the school’s still-ever best national finish when it tied for eighth. He was a district manager in the insurance business, and active in Boulder politics as a city councilman and state representative and state senator. Though he never played professionally, he was one of the state’s top amateur golfers for four decades, including senior golf (11 stroke and match play titles between the two). He passed away on February 8, 2003 at the age of 78.
In 1964, Kirchner founded the Colorado Open which has grown into one of the most prestigious state opens in the country, as well as boasting one of the highest purses. A CU graduate in 1943, when he was president of the senior class, he did not play golf as a collegian, but his outstanding contributions to the game of golf afforded him high honors throughout his life. In 1978, he inducted into the CU Athletic Hall of Honor, recognizing those for their career achievements beyond CU. He lived to be 98, passing away in 2019 just a month after his birthday.
McAtee was the 1961 Colorado Junior Golfer of the Year and 1963 Amateur of the Year in 1963). During his college career, he was not only a top player for CU, he was a force in state amateur golf, capturing three successive CGA Match Play crowns (done only three times in history). He had three top 20 finishes in the Big Eight Conference meet (including third as a senior in 1966) and several other top five tournament finishes. After graduating, he joined the U.S. Navy as an officer, pilot and flight instructor, but still accumulated numerous base, district and regional military golf championships and was the world-wide All-Navy champion in 1967, 1969 and 1970. In 1970, he was Interservice champion, meaning the top golfer, world-wide, in the Armed Forces. In 1972, he returned to Colorado to win a fourth CGA Match Play title — making him the first four-time winner since 1923.
Stenzel is best known to Colorado’s world of golf as a staunch and ever-ready support of college golf and father of the spectacular Fox Acres Country Club on his Red Feathers Lake estate, which at one time hosted CU’s Fox Acres Invitational from 1989 through 1993. He graduated from CU in 1934, majoring business and lettered in football for the Buffaloes, and then embarked on a series of business careers. After living in Kansas City for 20 years, in 1963 he acquired the Campbell Real Estate Development Company in Denver. But in-between, his family vacationed at Red Feathers Lake, where in 1960 he purchased a 38-acre former fox farm that had gone defunct when the fur’s popularity declined. He eventually built a golf course and took pride in hosting high school and college teams through the years. Late in his life he remarked, “All my life two things have never failed to inspire and excite me: the majesty of Colorado’s mountains and the personal challenges and rewards of the game of golf.” He passed away at the age of 91 in December 2002.
Webb, a graduate of Denver’s Thomas Jefferson High School, was only at CU a short time, choosing golf over his studies as he would always say. He turned into a gallery favorite thanks to his good nature and humor; between 1966 and 1971, he had six amateur wins. After turning professional in 1972, he reeled off an impressive series of wins in state and regional opens, claiming eight victories in Arizona, Kansas, Wyoming and Utah, and in 1980, the Colorado Open. In 1983, he won the PGA National Club Professional Championship – the first and only Coloradoan to win the event. That win opened the door for him into the 1984 World Series of Golf and the 1984 British Open at St. Andrews. An active participant for a brief time on the PGA Tour (1977-78, 1984), he was the winner of more than 50 professional and amateur events in his career.
Hamer, who died in February 2017 (he was 75), helped CU to a tie for 18th in the 1964 NCAA Championship, tying for 36th individually (73-78—151), the same year he tied for fifth in the Big Eight Championship (73-71-71—215), leading the Buffs to a third place finish. Dual meets were more the norm for his day, and as a senior, he posted one of the best dual marks – 14-2 – in school history. He opted not to pursue a professional career, but took the state by storm in the amateur ranks. He won 10 CGA state titles, including the 1969 and 1970 Stroke Play and the 1992 and 1996 Senior Stroke Play events.
Crabtree was a four-year letterman for the Buffaloes in the mid-1970s, a regular member of the travel squad and the team’s stroke average leader as a junior. As a player, he was a four-time CGA Match Play champion and finished in the top five of the CGA Stroke (now Amateur) an amazing 10 times. He was the state’s 1990 Public Links champion and advanced into the round of 16 in the 1990 U.S. Amateur. He would enter coaching, first at Colorado State where he would lead the Rams into the NCAAs for the first time in their history. After nine years in Fort Collins, he went to the University of Louisville and led the Cardinal program to prominence in his 21 years at the school. He also served a two-year term as president of the Golf Coaches Association of America (2008-10).
Woodard, nicknamed the “Human 2-Iron” for his svelte 6-foot-3 frame, was the first African-American to play varsity golf at Colorado. He led the Buffs in stroke average as a junior and often played his best in the Big Eight Championship, tying for fifth as junior in 1976 and was sixth as a senior a year later. That season, he earned an individual berth in the NCAA Championship and was awarded honorable mention All-America honors. He became the sixth player in program history to twice be named first-team all-conference. After his collegiate days, he competed for two-and-a-half years on the PGA Tour. Since becoming a club professional in 1986, he has made an impact all around the Denver metro area: he served as head professional at four area courses (City Park, Littleton, South Suburban and Buffalo Run). He was director of golf for the City of Denver from 1997-2006 (overseeing six courses), and has been the general manager and director of golf at Foothills Park & Recreation District in Denver since 2006. He co-founded The First Tee of Denver, and was inducted into the National Black Golfers Hall of Fame in 2012.
Mastalir developed his love of golf as a caddie for his father, Milton. While at Boulder High, he memorably looped for Irwin during the second of Hale’s three Colorado stroke play championships; he won a new set of clubs so M.J. bought Hale’s old one. While a senior at CU, Fowler was serving in the Colorado State Legislature and had him serve as assistant coach (including for the 1968 Big Eight championship team). While entering private business after graduating from CU, Mastalir served on the USGA’s Executive Committee from 1986 to 1993. He rose to Vice President, chairing the Rules of Golf and other committees, as well as five national championships, including the 1990 U.S. Amateur and 1993 U.S. Senior Open, both at Cherry Hills. Locally, he sat on the CGA’s Board of Governors from 1986 to 2007.
And Baines, an Evans Scholar and CU graduate, was inducted for his life-long coverage of the sport in assorted publications, mainly the Boulder Camera for 25 years and is now a year-round contributor for ColoradoGolf.org. He’s likely covered over 1,000 tournaments in the state, most in person, and earned the 2019 Robert Kirchner Award “for having contributed greatly to amateur golf, professional golf and/or tournament golf in the state of Colorado.”
Six others have been recognized with special awards from the Hall, most notably former CU golf coach of 29 years (1977-2005), the late Mark Simpson. He earned the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004, a year before he was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America’s Hall of Fame, the first and only CU coach to be so honored. He passed away at the age of 55 in December 2005.
Other Buffaloes have been honored with the Golf Person of the Year award, which was first created in 1975: Derek Tolan (2003), George Solich (2015), Hailey Schalk (2022) and Yannik Paul (2023), who is currently enjoying success on the DP World Tour (he just tied for 27th last Sunday in the DP World Championship in Dubai).
And the newest honor created by the Hall, “Future Famers” honors those juniors who have had outstanding high school and amateur careers. Schalk, a current CU senior, won the initial girls’ one in 2018, with current Buff sophomore Hunter Swanson honored in 2022.
The fireside chat was awesome. “Greenie” did his usual excellent job coordinating questions and answers among the quartet, reveling in many tales throughout their storied careers. It lasted for an hour, so here are some comments featuring the two Buffaloes.
Hale and Steve were seated next to other, several times playing off each other. One of the funnier moments was when Hale said he was never in it for the money, and Steve interrupted him and said, “That’s because you have so much of it.”
Steve was asked about growing up in Yuma. He relayed how inexpensive it was for his entire family to belong to Yuma’s golf course: “All eight of us were members and it cost us just $100 a year.”
Green pointed out that Jones won the 1996 U.S. Open just five days after the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup, and with a Coloradoan winning the golf, it was a lot to absorb in a week’s span.
Green also asked him about his 11-stroke win in the 1997 Phoenix Open. “But Hale wasn’t there,” Jones said to laughter; Green responded, “But everybody else was there, and they couldn’t touch you!”
“We were on 13, which is about 800 yards away from 16,” Jones said. “And this guy named Tiger Woods, in his first real year on the tour, made a hole-in-one and I heard this roar. I told the score guy, ‘Tiger just made a hole-in-one. Did you hear that? That’s Tiger roar.’ He looked it up and said ‘Yeah, you’re right, how’d you know that?’ I said because you could hear it when he did something great.
“The Monday afterward, I went to get my haircut because Pebble Beach was the next week, and I had to listen to this hairdresser talk about the Phoenix Open. “I was at the Phoenix Open every night, so she cuts my hair, and I said I was at the Phoenix Open too. And she asked me who did I watch, and I said, ‘The group ahead of me’ (it didn’t register). I said, ‘Do you know who won the tournament? She said, ‘No, but I saw Tiger Woods make a hole-in-one.’ I said, ‘Wow that’s great.’ I’ve been getting my haircut there for 10 years and she didn’t know who I was, but I didn’t say anything.”
Green asked all four about their putting styles. Steve said, “Practicing is the only way you get better. Because I would (sometimes) only hit around nine greens, I had to be good at putting. If I hadn’t been a good putter, I never would have been on the tour. I practiced putting a lot as a kid, I’d practice an hour or two almost every day. I just pick a spot and try to putt along that line.” It paid off, and in 1989, Jones led the PGA Tour in putts per round (30.6); he was also seventh in par breakers (.211) – whatever that is!
Hale said, “When I was learning how to putt on tour, I looked at the great players, whoever they may have been, Nicklaus, Arnie, I tried to see what was it that they were doing that I might be able to incorporate that I could do. You need to find consistency and tempo. Some (players) are quick, some are slow.”
Green brought up Hale’s third U.S. Open victory in 1990 at Medinah, Ill. (northwest of Chicago). He claimed it by beating Mike Donald on the 91st hole (the first in sudden death after the two remained tied after an 18-hole playoff) and in the process became the oldest U.S. Open champion at the age of 45 (he was 16 months older than Ray Floyd, the ’86 champion). He did so by coming from behind; he was tied for 20th, four strokes back of the leaders. But by firing a final round 67 that included five birdies on the back nine, the last one from some 50 feet that led to his now famous lap around the 18th green high-fiving fans in the gallery, he was now the leader in the clubhouse. He had to wait for the rest of the field to finish, and Donald eventually caught him ay 8-under 280 to force the playoff.
Green asked Hale if he thought he could rally and a chance to win it, or be in a playoff on Monday, especially after he drilled the long putt on 18.
“The thought does come to you, you have to give yourself that credit,” Hale said. “I started out about an hour or so ahead of the leaders,” he recalled. “Billy Ray Brown had come to me as I was going to the first tee, and he was among the co-leaders, and he asked me for some advice. I said, ‘You’re playing well, play the shots you feel comfortable with, but just don’t beat yourself.’ So, I’m walking up to the tee and thought to myself, ‘That’s some pretty good advice, so why don’t you try it.’ I was paired with Greg Norman and he birdied No. 10 and got me thinking, if I make some birdies, I’ve got a chance.
“I walked to the 11th tee, and I’m one shot out of the top 15, which gets you in the next year – I didn’t have an exemption. So, just forget that, concentrate on what you’re doing. I birdied 11, and said, redefine your goal: top 10. Birdied 12, redefine your goal: top five. Birdied 13, Birdied 14, now I’m one shot back of the leaders at the time, but they’re an hour back there, so anything can happen. So I par 15, 16, 17, and that’s why the big putt on 18 tied for the lead, but back in 1975, I also made a birdie putt on 18 to tie for the lead after winning at Winged Foot (eventually tying for third, one out of the lead). That was running through my mind, but I just played the last eight holes at the U.S. Open at five under par – that’s kind of exciting. But I never thought I’d win out, never wanted to extend that to myself. Don’t be disappointed, just be happy with what I just did.”