Six living Colorado golf legends will be honored as “People of the century.”
With November 14’s Century of Golf Gala appropriately moving to the iconic Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, and with arguably the greatest golfer ever, Jack Nicklaus, in attendance, the Colorado Golf Foundation will use the occasion to honor six transcendent individuals who have achieved national and international recognition for their accomplishments and contributions to the game.
“You have to appreciate people while they’re still with us,” Colorado Golf Association Executive Director Ed Mate says. “And it’s exciting and fitting and gratifying that we’re able to pay tribute to them.”
Man of the Century: Will Nicholson Jr.
Perhaps best known for setting up the course for the Masters during his 15 years as chairman of the Masters Competition Committee at Augusta National Golf Club, the Denver banker was president of the USGA (1980-81) and served 11 years on the powerful USGA Executive Committee. A member of the CGA board of governors for more than 40 years, Nicholson played a pivotal role in creating the celebrated CGA/ CWGA-owned CommonGround Golf Course. Since 2006, the Will F. Nicholson Award has annually honored individuals such as Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw and Ernie Els who have demonstrated a lifetime of commitment and dedication to the game of golf. Three recipients—Hale Irwin, Judy Bell and Nicholson himself—are among the Golf People of the Century.
Woman of the Century: Judy Bell
In 1996, 102 years after the founding of the USGA, the Colorado Springs resident became the organization’s first and only woman president. This followed 13 years as the first female to serve on its Executive Committee. She would go on to serve as Consulting Director for the USGA Grants & Fellowship department, which since 1997 has provided more than $65 million to organizations across the United States that conduct golf programs for underserved children and individuals with disabilities, including nearly $2 million to Girls Golf. Her career as an administrator and player (three Broadmoor Ladies Invitation and Kansas Women’s Amateur titles, two Curtis Cup appearances and captaincies, and a single-round record 67 in the U.S. Women’s Open that stood for 14 years) earned her induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2001.
Male Player of the Century: Hale Irwin
Few players from Colorado or elsewhere can match the University of Colorado grad’s three U.S. Open victories (including 1990 at age 45) and 20 PGA Tour wins. And nobody comes close to his record of 45 Champions Tour victories. His 14 points (a 13-5-2 overall record) in five Ryder Cup appearances places him 10th all-time. His individual victory in the 1967 NCAA national championship remains CU’s only title in the event. The winner of three consecutive state stroke play championships headlined the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame’s second-ever class in 1974. A member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and CU Athletic Hall of Fame, Irwin entered the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1992.
Female Player of the Century: Barbara McIntire
On August 22, 1960, after becoming only the fourth American to win the British Ladies Amateur, the “Girl Golf Star” appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. This came a year after she’d won the U.S. Women’s Amateur (which she’d also win in 1964) and four years after almost becoming the first amateur winner of the U.S. Women’s Open (she lost in an 18-hole playoff to Cathy Cornelius). The longtime Colorado Springs resident played on six U.S. Curtis Cup teams, captained two others, and won six Women’s North & South Amateur Championships and a pair of Western Amateurs. She chaired the USGA Women’s Committee, and in 2000 received the organization’s highest honor, the Bob Jones Award. She joined Irwin as members of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame’s second class in 1974, and entered the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.
Golf Professional of the Century: Charles “Vic” Kline
In 2000, the PGA of America honored the longtime PGA Director of Golf at Arvada’s Indian Tree Golf Club with its highest honor, Golf Professional of the Year. Five years later, his accomplishments— which included creating Indian Tree’s nationally acclaimed junior golf program—earned him induction into the PGA of America Golf Professional Hall of Fame. The five-time president of the Colorado PGA also won, among other honors, its Player of the Year award five times. He counts among his many victories the 1968 Colorado Open and the 1977 Rocky Mountain Open. As testament to his influence, the Colorado PGA annually presents the Vic Kline Award for outstanding service and leadership in the Section.
Superintendent of the Century: Dennis Lyon
Nationally recognized by the USGA with its 2011 Green Section Award (given to significant contributions to golf through work with turfgrass), this Colorado Golf Hall of Fame member two years later received the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America’s Col. John Morley Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of the golf course superintendent’s profession. Lyon served as national president of the GCSAA (1989-90) and the Colorado Golf Association (2002-03). As the manager of golf for the City of Aurora for more than 30 years, he oversaw the expansion of its course network to include Saddle Rock Golf Course (site of the 1998-2000 Colorado Opens) and Murphy Creek Golf Course (site of the 2008 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, for which he served as general chairman). For his 25 years of volunteer work on the USGA Public Golf and Green Section Committees, the Craig native in 2011 received the USGA Ike Grainger Award.