Former CU golfer Brittany Fan on heels of past LPGA players Clariss Guce and Haley Moore at top of leaderboard at Colorado Women’s Open; Boulder’s Kelsey Webster leads amateur competition
By Gary Baines – 6/2/2022
Winning a notable golf tournament is almost always a big deal for professional players, especially those trying to get over the hump and make it into the “big leagues”.
But winning the Inspirato Colorado Women’s Open falls into another category. A $100,000 first prize — which pretty much sets the standard for tournaments that aren’t affiliated with one of the world’s major tours — will do that.
So, for those pros in contention for the title on Friday at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club, a victory would be monumental.
“Honestly, that is a pretty big deal,” said Brittany Fan, a former University of Colorado golfer. “Everyone knows professional golf is very expensive. Expenses run between $60,000 and $90,000 each year. So that would cover a lot of things — and that’s honestly what I would use it for.”
Added Haley Moore of Escondido, Calif.: “It would definitely be something very special. It would be the highest prize yet that I’ve won. I could do so much with it. I really think it would turn my career around, and my confidence with my game. I’ve had some ups and downs these last couple of years. Finally seeing these (last) two really good rounds — and trying to get one more solid round tomorrow — would really boost up my confidence.”
And from leader Clariss Guce of Artesia, Calif., who like Fan and Moore is a regular on the Epson Tour, the feeder circuit for the LPGA: “I try not to think about it. If you start thinking about every missed shot you go, ‘Oh, there’s 20 grand there.’ So definitely I don’t think about it. You play golf, you hit the shots the best you can and it all adds up in the end. Hopefully that’s good enough. You can’t think about the money, you can’t think about your position on the board. You just play with what you have and see what happens.”
Quite a few players have legitimate shots at the $100k going into Friday’s final round as six golfers sit in the 6 under to 9 under range. Two former LPGA players from California, Guce and Moore, are in the top two spots after two days. Guce, the first-round leader, continued to set the pace as a 3-under-par 69 left her at 9-under 135 and with a one-stroke advantage. Moore backed up her first-round 67 with a 69 and sits at 136.
Fan, the 2013 low amateur at the CWO and a fourth-place finisher overall in 2018, holds third place at 137 after firing a second-round 68.
Lauren Coughlin of Charlottesville, Va., the 2016 CWO champ, shares fourth place at 138 with Fatima Fernandez Cano of Spain and Olivia Benzin of Tacoma, Wash.
Following the 1.6 inches of rain GVR received on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, the competitors have played lift, clean and place for both of the rounds so far — and will do so again on Friday.
Because of the fallout from a 4 1/2-hour delay for the start of the tournament on Wednesday, six players didn’t complete 36 holes on Thursday and will resume round 2 on Friday morning, barring withdrawal. Then a cut will be made and the final round will begin at approximately 8:30 a.m.
Fan is coming off four consecutive missed cuts on the Epson Tour, but is feeling right at home this week.
“Obviously I went to school here,” the 26-year-old said. “Being back in Colorado, you kind of get the nostalgia — and I think that helps. And I like Colorado grass, and that definitely plays a role.”
And having her brother, Michael, caddying for her at the CWO — his one time each year looping for her — doesn’t hurt.
“I call my brother and myself the dynamic duo,” Fan said. “I’m superstitious about him caddying, so I think just having him on the bag gives me that extra sense of comfort and calmness. We joke around and have fun. Every year I make sure he’s the one caddying. He lives in California. My whole family and him flew in for this event, so it makes it extra fun.”
As noted, both Guce and Moore have competed on the LPGA circuit — Moore in 30 tournaments and Guce in 22. And Moore is in the field for next week’s Shoprite LPGA Classic in New Jersey.
Guce, who was born in the Philippines and played her college golf at Cal State Northridge, picked up on Thursday where she left off on Wednesday. All told, through two rounds she’s chalked up a dozen birdies and three bogeys.
“It’s been fun, but it doesn’t mean anything yet,” the 32-year-old said. “We still have tomorrow. A lot of things will happen tomorrow, so I’ll make sure I have fun and try to stay in the present.”
Moore is competing at the CWO for the second time, after placing 39th in 2020. But she appears much more comfortable at GVR this time around, as she’s made 11 birdies and three bogeys through two rounds.
“I’m just hitting the ball really well and my putting has been really good,” said Moore, part of the NCAA-winning University of Arizona women’s golf team in 2018. “I’m hitting it close and capitalizing by making the putts. If I can just keep that going for one more day, it would be awesome.
“Coming back here for a second time has really helped. The first time there was more wind and elevation was a huge thing. Learning from that year has really helped me for this year.”
Much-Improved Kelsey Webster Leads Amateur Competition: The last time Kelsey Webster of Boulder was paired with Lauren Coughlin at the Colorado Women’s Open prior to this week, Webster was a wet-behind-ears high schooler, while Coughlin went on to win the tournament six years ago.
But this time around, when the two were paired again at GVR, they competed on a much more even basis. And both find themselves in the top 10 heading into the final round of the CWO. Coughlin (70-68) sits in fourth place overall and Webster (72-68) in seventh.
And in the case of Webster, she’ll tee off on Friday with the lead in the amateur competition as she’s one stroke ahead of Tess Blair of South Jordan, Utah, a Sacramento State golfer (70-71).
Webster started her college golf career at the University of Colorado, but prior to last season she transferred to Oregon State, where Colorado native Dawn Shockley is the head coach. And Webster has made considerable strides, tying for fifth in the Pac-12 Championship and posting three other top-20 finishes this past college season.
“My game is in an incredibly different place than it was even a year ago,” Webster said Thursday. “Going to Oregon State, my game has excelled there with the coaching and the teammates. The new environment has been tremendous for my golf game. To even compare my golf game to the last five years isn’t even fair because it’s so different and I’m a very different player. And that’s fun to experience.
“I learned so incredibly much in a matter of just a few months. And I had the best college season I’ve ever had — by far. And I came out here (to the Women’s Open) and played way better than I ever have before.”
On Thursday, Webster posted five birdies and a bogey en route to her 68.
“It’s hard not to think about being low am, being in this position,” the 22-year-old said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the future events and think, ‘I could be low am, I could shoot a gazillion under.’ I’m starting to learn that that’s not the way that successful golf works. Staying patient and trusting the process — trusting that whatever that happens tomorrow is supposed to happen — (is important). I’ve learned that lesson the hard way a few times now. I’m trying to do better to stay patient and go shot by shot and trust things will work out in the end.”
Webster, who is heading into her fifth and final season of college golf, said that that will be it for her as far as elite-level competition goes. She has no aspirations to go pro.
“I’ll definitely be a bit more dedicated to golf this summer than I have been, and give it one last run for one more year,” she said. “And honestly I’ll be happily retired in about a year, once the season ends. … But I’d love to go down the coaching path.”
Notable: Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Jill McGill, a two-time USGA champion who went on to a long career on the LPGA Tour, had the comeback of the day on Thursday. After a first-round 80, she rebounded with a bogey-free 4-under-par 68 in round 2. Alas, she fell a little short of making the 36-hole cut. … Defending champion Savannah Vilaubi likewise improved considerably in round 2, following up a 75 with a 66 and moving up to eighth place. … Gerina Mendoza (Pillar), owner of 40 top-10 finishes in her LPGA career, stands in 16th place after going 74-69. … The Inspirato No. 2 team, comprised of 2016 individual champ Lauren Coughlin and amateur Carl Hoover of Golden, holds a one-stroke lead in the pro-am competition after two days, shooting scores of 66-60 for an 18-under-par total.
For all the scores from the Colorado Women’s Open, CLICK HERE.
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)