Third Time’s a Charm

Micah Rudosky joins elite company by winning his third Colorado PGA Professional Championship; same players finish 1-2-3 as last year

By Gary Baines – 9/21/2022

Micah Rudosky lives in the very southwest corner of Colorado, in the town of Cortez. But when it comes to competing in the Colorado PGA’s most prestigious tournament, the 52-year-old is right at the center of things in the state.

The PGA head professional at Conquistador Golf Course for the last quarter-century, Rudosky on Wednesday won the Colorado PGA Professional Championship for the second straight year, this time at Todd Creek Golf Club in Thornton.

He thus becomes the first back-to-back winner of the event since Doug Rohrbaugh captured three consecutive Section titles from 2013-15. And Rudosky — who also prevailed in 2001 — joins an elite group of players who have claimed the championship at least three times. That group includes Dow Finsterwald (3 wins), Bill Loeffler (3), Ron Vlosich (4), Fred Wampler (4), Jack Sommers (4), Rohrbaugh (3), Ken Krieger (3) and Bob Hold (3). Of that group, Finsterwald, Loeffler, Vlosich, Wampler, Sommers and Hold are are in the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.

“The guys on that list are amazing,” Rudosky said. “It took 20 years for me to win again after winning the first time. To have my name up there with those guys and not just one time but three times, that’s special.”

This makes two straight years that Micah Rudosky has been (happily) left holding the Cup.

This year’s tournament was remarkable in that it produced the exact same first-, second- and third-place finishers — in the same order — as last year, with Rudosky winning, Ben Lanting of Bear Creek Golf Club second and Chris Hyten of Castle Pines Golf Club third. The only slight caveat is that Caine Fitzgerald tied Hyten for third place in 2021, but not this time.

This week, Rudosky used three consecutive birdies in the middle of his final round, followed by consecutive up-and-downs for par, to shoot a 3-under-par 69 on Wednesday and emerge on top by three strokes, which earned him $12,000.

Lanting, 29, made a run by being 3 under par through seven holes on Wednesday, but he played even par the rest of the way in matching Rudosky’s 69. Hyten closed with a 73 to finish another stroke back. Rohrbaugh, an instructor at River Valley Ranch who won this event the last time it was contested at Todd Creek (2014), tied for fourth at 3-under 213 with Colorado PGA senior champ Matt Schalk of Colorado National Golf Club and Grant Jackson of Saddle Rock Golf Course.

This 45-foot birdie putt that Rudosky drained on No. 9 gave him the lead for good on Wednesday.

Those six players, along with Geoff Keffer of Lakewood Country Club (214), Jason Witczak of The Club at Pradera (215) and Bobby Quaratino of West Woods Golf Club (216) earned berths into the 2023 national PGA Professional Championship, set for April 30-May 3 in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M. In addition, Sherry Andonian-Smith of Valley Country Club is exempt into the national tournament by virtue of making the United States team at the Women’s PGA Cup that will held late next month in New Mexico.

With the 52-year-old Rudosky winning on Wednesday, it continued a trend of success for senior (50-and-older) players in the Section championship. It was the eighth time in the last 10 championships that a senior golfer has claimed the title, with only Keffer (2016 and ’20) interrupting the run. Here are the 50-year-old-plus players who have won the Section’s overall championship since 2013: Rohrbaugh (2013, ’14 and ’15); John Ogden (2017); Patrick Reidy (2018); Vlosich (2019); and Rudosky (2021 and ’22).

Ben Lanting finished runner-up to Rudosky for the second straight year.

So what’s the deal with the seniors beating the young guns on a fairly regular basis?

“(The good senior players in the Section) are plenty long still,” observed the twenty-something Lanting. “Us young guys are probably a little longer, but around the greens they’re just so solid. And they definitely use the experience they have to their advantage. It just speaks to (the fact) that they’re good at golf.”

Added Rudosky: “Maybe we’re playing a little bit more. I don’t know. I can’t tell you why that is. In particular Ben (Lanting), to watch him play and see where he hits the ball … I’ve got to be on my game and if he’s on his game, can I hang with him?”

Chris Hyten couldn’t believe some of his putts didn’t fall, leaving him third for the second consecutive year.

On Wednesday certainly, Rudosky could hang with anyone in the event as he and Lanting tied for low round on a cool and sometimes drizzly final day (69). 

Even after making a birdie on No. 8, Rudosky still sat a stroke behind Keffer. But that’s where the golfer from Cortez made his move. He drained an improbable birdie putt on No. 9, sinking one from 45 feet that had to travel over a ridge. With Keffer making bogey there, a two-shot swing put Rudosky in the lead. 

“You’re going to make that (45-foot putt) one out of a hundred times,” Rudosky said. “I was hoping to two-putt, but it was absolutely perfect.”

Doug Rohrbaugh, who won the Section title last time the event was held at Todd Creek, tied for fourth this year.

Rudosky picked up two more on Keffer on No. 10, where the former made a 10-foot birdie putt on a hole he bogeyed the first two days, while Keffer three-putted for bogey. Then after missing the greens on both Nos. 11 and 12, Rudosky sank par putts of 4 and 5 feet, respectively.

“Nine-10-11-12, that stretch (was crucial),” he said. “I couldn’t relax (after that), but that sure kept it going for me because it could have gone the other way.”

For most of the back nine, Lanting was the closest pursuer, and when he he made a 4-foot birdie on No. 14, he was just one back. But a bogey on 16, and Rudosky’s 5-foot birdie on 17 accounted for the final victory margin.

“Overall it was a really fun day,” said Lanting, runner-up for the second straight year. “To start off hot like I did was fun. I was 3 under through seven, then I just kept trying to chase it. I just couldn’t quite get it done. I missed a few putts down the stretch that you’ve got to make if you’re coming from behind like that. Just like last year, Micah is really solid. And you’ve got to play really solid to compete with that. 

“My goal is definitely to win. But honestly for me, golf is just so much fun. I feel so blessed to be able to play it at the level that I can. For me, that perspective just helps regardless of where I finish.”

36-hole leader and two-time champ Geoff Keffer struggled down the stretch on Wednesday, placing seventh.

As for Rudosky, winning at age 52 was particularly satisfying.

“This one felt really nice because I know there aren’t a whole lot more — now that I’m getting up there,” he said. “But if I stay healthy and things go well, I can continue to compete with these guys (for a while). There are so many good players in all the (PGA) Sections. So this one feels really good.

“This is our major championship for Colorado.”

Given how Rudosky is playing, it’s little wonder why he says he “probably” will give PGA Tour Champions Q-school a go again this fall.

“I have been playing well,” he said. “I have been controlling the ball. If I need to fade it, I fade it. If I need to draw it, I draw it. So with that, I felt confident. I wasn’t guessing where it was going. I was actually hitting shots, which says you’re playing pretty good.”

For all the scores from the Colorado PGA Professional Championship, CLICK HERE.