Rocky Mountain Open Gets New Owners

The 76-year-old Rocky Mountain Open, Colorado’s longest continuously running open golf tournament, will take place August 14-17 at Tiara Rado Golf Club and Bookcliff Country Club under new ownership.

A group led by Enstrom Candies President and Owner Doug Simons and Monument Oil President C. Paul Brown purchased the rights to the tournament from the Western Colorado Golf Foundation for $30,000.

Simons said the WCGF, which provides college scholarships to Western Slope junior golfers, would receive the money in $10,000 installments over the next three years to support its mission. After that, he believes, the tournament will have re-established itself as a top-tier regional event, with larger purses and stronger fields.

“We naturally want to provide scholarships for worthy golf athletes and students,” Simons says. “But you have to nurture the golden goose first, not squeeze it to death.”

Simons wants to return the tournament to the elevated status it once had. His grandfather-in-law, famed confectioner Chet Enstrom, served as chairman of the first tournament, which took place at Lincoln Park Golf Course in 1939. Noted players included Babe Didrikson Zaharas, who finished third as an amateur in 1946 and returned in 1950 to play in the pro flight. 1969 U.S. Open winner Orville Moody won it in 1975. And Brown, who was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame this June, became the second and last amateur to win it, in 1987.

That heritage led Simons to have Enstrom's title-sponsor the event for the last few years. But he saw that the well-intentioned WCGF was better suited to running a foundation than a competitive golf tournament.

So Simons, with the support of Brown, negotiated the purchase. “It is a win-win for both groups,” the two men said independently.

Using as his organization model the successful JUCO World Series, which takes place annually in Grand Junction, Simons has established the RMO as a 501(c)(4) organization and has assembled a blue-ribbon board. Plans include reinstituting a pro-am and creating other events around the tournament.

In order to rebuild the RMO brand, Enstrom's will no longer be the title sponsor. This move, Simons believes, will attract multiple sponsors, as well as support from area golfers.

Brown who was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame this June, will serve as honorary chairman. “It’s time to take the tournament to the pinnacle at which it deserves to be,” Brown says. “It has a great tradition that we are passionate about continuing.”

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