Event becomes richest state open in U.S; winner’s share quadruples to $100K.
Kevin Laura couldn't have picked a more appropriately named place than Topgolf to make a huge announcement.
Standing at a podium at the Centennial golf megaplex, the CEO of The First Tee of Green Valley Ranch and the CoBank Colorado Opens revealed that the 2016 CoBank Colorado Open would have the largest state open purse—$250,000—in the country. The first place prize of $100,000, also an unprecedented amount, quadruples what previous winners received.
In keeping with the vernacular of the venue, the CoBank Colorado Open is now a top golf event that will attact top golf talent from the Web.com, local mini-tours and even the PGA and Champions tours.
Laura said the initial catalyst for the purse increase was Notah Begay, who joined fellow PGA Tour veterans Chris Riley and Shane Bertsch in the field of last year's event. Begay raved about the Green Valley Ranch course and said sweetening the payday would take the tournament to a whole new level. “He got in (Colorado Open Foundation Founder and Green Valley Ranch Golf Club Owner) Pat Hamill's ear,” said Laura. “Now look where we are.”
Hamill joined Laura in making the announcement. So did CoBank Senior Vice President Arthur Hodges and Colorado Open Golf Foundation Chairman Eric Kenealy. The event's 2000 and 2011 champions, Scott Petersen and Ben Portie, also spoke.
“Increasing the purse and especially a first place check of $100,000 will make the already fantastic CoBank Colorado Open even better,” said Portie, a Westminster and CU product who now coaches the women's golf team at Metro State. “Growing up here, I always considered this our major championship.”
A fellow Buff and web.com Tour veteran, Petersen (below) echoed that sentiment. When asked whether he resented the presence of talented out-of-state players, he said he welcomed the competition and would “feel even better to beat them.”
The doubling of the purse for 2016 follows the announcement last year that Greenwood Village-based CoBank succeeded HealthOne as the title sponsor for the men’s, women’s and senior’s championships through 2020. Commitments from additional corporate and individual sponsors enabled the foundation to raise the level of prize money for the men’s tournament without relying entirely on higher entry fees.
“We could not be more pleased to see such strong support for the open from other sponsors in the community,” said Bob Engel, CoBank’s chief executive officer. “The open is an important institution with a proud history in the state of Colorado, and it is very gratifying to see it achieve such positive momentum.”
Although the impact of the purse increase on the quality of the field will be substantial, the event's integrity and tradition as an “open” tournament will remain, with more than one-third of the spots set aside for open qualifying. Of the full field of 156 players a total of 56 spots are reserved for players that win spots in the four qualifying tournaments, held at Eagle Ranch Golf Club, The Inverness Golf Club and Legacy Ridge Golf Course.
“The purse increase will attract more high level competition and the $100,000 will be life changing for whoever wins. It will help propel their career to higher levels in the game,” said PGA Tour player Mark Hubbard of Denver who last played in the Colorado Open in 2013.
“This change in purse and first place money will make me think long and hard about taking the week off from the Web.com Tour and defend my title,” said last year's champion Jimmy Gunn (above).
Registration for the 2016 championship and four qualifiers to gain entry into the field opened today. To register and for further information on the 2016 CoBank Colorado Open visit www.ColoradoOpen.com.