Familiar Faces

2022 Ascendant at TPC Colorado could feature an abundance of alums from Colorado college golf programs

By Gary Baines – 5/31/2022

This year’s The Ascendant presented by Blue — the new name for the former TPC Colorado Championship event on the Korn Ferry Tour — has an opportunity to pretty much run the gamut as far as representation from Colorado-based men’s golf programs go.

When the tournament is held at TPC Colorado in Berthoud June 30-July 3, it’s possible that competitors will include a golfer or two from the University of Colorado, the Air Force Academy, Colorado State and/or Colorado School of Mines, with other possibilities from the University of Denver and the University of Northern Colorado. 

The 156-person field is still taking shape and won’t be finalized until tournament week, but likely entrants include:

— Jeremy Paul, a CU alum who’s in his first season since 2017 as a Korn Ferry regular.

— Tom Whitney and Kyle Westmoreland, both former Air Force Academy golfers who also call the KFT their professional home.

In addition, other possibilities include:

— Colorado School of Mines alum Jim Knous, who has played in a smattering of KFT events this year along with many more on the PGA Tour, where he has conditional status — just like fellow Colorado native Mark Hubbard.

— Former CSU golfer Jake Staiano, the 2021 Rocky Mountain Open champion who has conditional status on the KFT this year.

And, of course, others who played their college golf in Colorado will try to earn one of the eight spots available through Monday qualifying that will be held June 27 at Highland Meadows in Windsor and Colorado National in Erie. For instance, that’s how former University of Denver golfer Chris Korte made the field at TPC Colorado last year.

The 16th hole at TPC Colorado.

Scaled-Down Version of 16 at TPC Scottsdale, Anyone?: Anyone who has visited TPC Colorado knows what a spectacular view the par-3 16th provides. The hole heads west, with large reservoirs just behind the green, and the snowcapped Rocky Mountains as a backdrop. 

Now, the 16th will be even more of an attraction as officials are planning to add grandstands behind and flanking the teebox area. With the existing vantages from the clubhouse behind the tee box and the hospitality areas between 15 and 16 and between 18 and 16, spots for fans to sit and watch the action will form a large “U” around the perimeter of most of the hole.

“We’re almost getting that whole feel of surrounding the 16th hole,” tournament director Drew Blass said Tuesday at the tournament’s media day. “We’ve also talked to the rules officials where we’re going to look at can we get some spectators behind 16 (green) — between 16 and 17 — to surround it even more.”

The 16th hole is where last year’s sudden-death playoff was decided, with Tag Ridings prevailing.

Along with the trophy (right), two Adirondack ski chairs will go to future winners of The Ascendant.

Have a Seat: Deciding that The Ascendant winner should receive a local gift each year, tournament officials have elected to present two Adirondack ski chairs — one with a Colorado theme and one with a Wyoming theme. The idea came from three-time PGA Tour winner — and current Colorado resident — Gary Hallberg, who now plays an official role with Ascendant. Hallberg noted that his most memorable local gift after winning a tournament was a rocking chair earned from the Ensure Classic at Rock Barn in 2010.

Notable: Tickets are on sale for The Ascendant and are available by CLICKING HERE. … As a reminder, the purse for the event at TPC Colorado will increase to $750,000 this year (from $600,000 in 2021) and to $1 million in 2023. … The Ascendant is currently the 19th tournament of the 26-event Korn Ferry Tour season, but Blass said his hunch is that next year the event will be moved even later in the season — and closer to the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. … About 600 volunteers are expected to work this year’s Ascendant. 

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for ColoradoGolf.org since 2009. He was voted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2021. Email: ColoradoGolfJournal@mac.com)