What a Class!
Note: The date and venue of the 2024 Colorado Golf Hall of Fame induction will be determined soon. Check back regularly for details.
After a year of celebrating its 50th Anniversary with the grand opening of its museum and its November 18th “Celebration of Excellence,” the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame will return to inducting people next year.
And it will do so by unintentionally honoring another 50th anniversary.
The 1974 induction class established a record with six inductees—including 29-year-old Hale Irwin, the winner of that year’s U.S. Open. Irwin spent the next 49 years as the institution’s youngest inductee. The class of 2024 will also feature six individuals, and among them will again be a 29-year-old U.S. Open winner—Wyndham Clark.
Clark, a Colorado high-school (two Class 4A individual state titles, two CGA championships) and college (three individual titles, including the Pac-12 crown for the University of Oregon) star, won the U.S. Open over Rory McIlroy at Los Angeles Country Club six weeks after earning his first PGA Tour victory at the Wells Fargo.
He’ll be joined by Jennifer Kupcho, the three-time LPGA Tour champion (including one major, the Chevron Championship), three-time Colorado Golf Hall of Fame Person of the Year (2017,’19, ’23) and the winner of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Championship, 2019 Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Colorado Golf Association’s Hale Irwin Medal. At 26, Kupcho will eclipse Irwin as the youngest person ever inducted into the Hall.
Rounding out the record-tying class: GOLFTEC founder and CEO Joe Assell; Colorado Open Golf Foundation and First Tee Green Valley Ranch founder Pat Hamill; George Solich, the philanthropist and force behind the Solich and Broadmoor Caddie and Leadership academies, as well as Colorado’s two BMW Championships; and Trinidad, Colorado’s, Gene Torres, the winner of the 1972 Colorado Open and more than 80 other professional events.
While Clark’s and Kupcho’s myriad accomplishments as high-profile players may be common knowledge to golf fans, those of the others may not be.
In 1995, in the basement of Cherry Hills Country Club, assistant PGA golf professional Joe Assell and his boss, Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Clayton Cole, co-founded the biofeedback-based instruction system that has become GOLFTEC—a world leader in golf instruction, club fittings and training systems, with more than 250 retail locations worldwide.
Those locations, which utilizes the company’s proprietary swing motion capture technology, employ more than 1,000 golf professionals, ranking GOLFTEC as one of the two largest employers of PGA professionals in the world. Assell, who as company CEO has overseen this growth, was named the PGA of America’s 2022 Golf Executive of the Year.
When financial mismanagement forced the cancellation of the 2003 Colorado Open, Hamill, the founder and chairman of Oakwood Homes, purchased it, refunded the players’ entry fees and enlisted the help of leaders from Colorado’s golf and business communities to return the then-40-year-old championship to the elite status it had previously enjoyed. Today the event ranks as the state open with the largest payout ($250,000) and winner’s share ($100,000) in the country. Moreover, the Inspirato Colorado Open and Inspirato Colorado Women’s Open also enjoy the distinction of having equal purses and winner’s shares.
Hamill’s Colorado Open Golf Foundation administers the events—annually held at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver—with the proceeds benefiting the First Tee’s Green Valley Ranch chapter, which he also founded. Hamill also serves as a national trustee of First Tee, established the annual Carmel Classic charity event at Pebble Beach and has helped raised millions for Colorado Boys and Girls Clubs through the Jack Vickers Invitational.
He caddied at The Broadmoor, attended the University of Colorado on an Evans Caddie Scholarship and has since used his financial success in the energy exploration and production business to co-found with his brother, Duffy, the highly successful Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy at CommonGround Golf Course and The Broadmoor Caddie and Leadership Academy. Between them, those academies have produced 45 Evans Scholars. Furthering his commitment to youth development through golf, Solich also helped found the Colorado Golf Foundation.
Solich’s induction will occur in the same year that the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship comes to Colorado for the second time. In the case of both the 2014 edition, held at Cherry Hills Country Club, and the ’24 event at Castle Pines Golf Club, Solich, a member of both clubs, played a critical role in landing the championship. Net proceeds from the BMW benefit the Evans Scholars Foundation.
(Note: Although both Hamill and Solich also provided considerable financial support to the building of the new Colorado Golf Hall of Fame Museum at The Broadmoor, the Board of Directors considered only their substantial, sustained and positive impact on Colorado golf when considering their Hall of Fame credentials.)
Born in Trinidad, 12 miles north of the New Mexico state line, Gene Torres spent enough time in the Land of Enchantment to have a course named after him in Las Vegas, N.M. His Colorado bona fides include winning the 1956 high school individual title and capturing the Colorado Open championship in 1972, a year after finishing a shot behind champion Dave Hill, the PGA Tour and Ryder Cup team member who would be inducted as part of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame’s inaugural class. Torres would follow those two top-10 finishes with four more during the Colorado Open’s time at Hiwan Golf Club.
In addition, “The Rock” captured multiple titles in the Rocky Mountain Open in Grand Junction and Navajo Trail Open in Durango. He qualified for two U.S. Opens, making the cut in 1972 at Oakland Hills and missing it in ’73 at Oakmont—the same location where he competed for two rounds in the 1978 PGA Championship. The winner of five New Mexico Opens, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award the Sun Country PGA Section in 2004, one year before his death.
Golf Person of the Year: Jim Hillary
As chair of the 2023 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club—won by Nick Dunlap over Neal Shipley—Hillary presided over one of the most successful editions in the event’s history. More than 12,000 attended the weeklong event, the organization and competition was first-rate, and the junior golf pavilion drew raves. Hillary also managed to drum up substantial financial support from club members, individuals and institutions to present three $500,000 checks to youth-related golf charities with strong Colorado ties—the Evans Scholars Foundation, Palmer Scholarship Foundation and the First Tee’s Colorado chapters.
Lifetime Achievement: Kathy Walker
Starting with the 1990 U.S. Amateur, the Cherry Hills Country Club member has spearheaded volunteer organization and sponsorship efforts for the four USGA championships hosted by the club: three U.S. Amateurs (’90, 2012 and ’23) and the ’93 U.S. Senior Open.
Distinguished Service: Mark Passey
Tasked in 2020 with negotiating with The Broadmoor for the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame’s 50th Anniversary celebration, organization’s vice president parlayed those discussions into the relocation of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame Museum to the Colorado Springs golf resort. A Utah Golf Hall of Fame inductee who recently retired from a career as a USGA regional affairs director, Passey devoted himself to every phase of the museum’s relocation—including fundraising, conceptualization, curating and construction. More than 30 months and $1.6 million in the making, the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame Museum at the Broadmoor debuted in April.
Future Famer: Charlie Tucker
The winner of the CGA State Junior and the 5A state high school tournament, where the Castle Pines member also led Rock Canyon High School to its first boys state team championship. The 2024 graduate has verbally committed to play for Colorado State University.
Future Famer: Logan Hale
The lone Coloradan to qualify for July’s U.S. Girls’ Junior at Eisenhower Golf Club in Colorado Springs, the Erie High School junior won the girls 4A state high school individual title, leading the Tigers to their second consecutive team title. Hale will play for the University of Denver starting in 2024.