Matt Schalk of Erie becomes 2nd Coloradan in last 15 years to win national Senior PGA Professional Championship; he joins Doug Rohrbaugh, Micah Rudosky and Dave Arbuckle in qualifying for 2023 Senior PGA Championship
By Gary Baines – 10/17/2022
Two and a half months ago, Matt Schalk of Erie won the Colorado Senior PGA Professional Championship, which was no small accomplishment. But on Sunday, the PGA general manager at Colorado National Golf Club went national with another feat.
The 51-year-old became the second Coloradan since 2007 to win the national Senior PGA Professional Championship as he secured a two-stroke victory in the event at Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M. Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Bill Loeffler claimed the same title 15 years ago.
The win not only was worth $26,000 to Schalk, but it earned him a spot in the 2023 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship — a major on PGA Tour Champions that will be played May 25-28 in Frisco, Texas, the new home of the PGA of America — as well as a berth in the final stage of Champions Q-school, set for Dec. 6-9 in at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona.
“I am extremely proud to be a national champion,” Schalk said in a text to ColoradoGolfJournal.com. “Obviously, becoming one is not easy. Just being able to get to the national championship is a difficult task. For me, believing I had the game to compete at a high level was really all I had. With the ‘W’, it confirms it for me, which is an incredible feeling.”
Schalk finished No. 1 out of a field of 264 PGA of America professionals that started the 72-hole tournament in New Mexico. He posted scores of 69-68-66 before carding a 3-over-par 75 in high winds and rain on Sunday as he finished at 10-under-par 278, two better than Utahn — and former national champ — Steve Schneiter, who competes periodically in Colorado.
Schalk called the victory the biggest of his career.
“I did believe I could win the event going into it,” he noted. “It really wasn’t my goal as my goal was to finish in the top 35 and grab a Senior PGA Championship spot. As I was playing my practice rounds and shooting some very low scores, I got the feeling my game was peaking.
“I think one of the reasons I was able to play well was I just kind of went blank during the competitive rounds. The first hole, I was certainly anxious and then by the time I got to hole 2, I seemed to go blank and wasn’t really worried about the outcome. I was really calm, which was great.”
Schalk added in speaking to the Albuquerque Journal, “To win and become a champion is just incredible. To beat a field of this many capable players is really awesome.”
And to do it while battling such adverse weather made it all the sweeter.
“It was definitely the most difficult conditions I’ve ever played in,” said Schalk, who played his first six holes Sunday in 3 over par but went even-par the rest of the way.
“It definitely felt like it was a good 25-30 mph steady with gusts going,” Schalk told PGA.com. “I had my ball blowing around on a green when I was walking up to it. You never could quite get comfortable out there, but everybody had it. I went into it trying to not make (double bogeys). Pars were like birdies. I just tried to make bogeys and understand that it wasn’t the end of the world if you made one because you knew everyone was going to be making them too.
“… It’s the last-man-standing kind of thing.”
Schalk’s national championship comes in the same year that Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Jill McGill won the U.S. Senior Women’s Open and that fellow Colorado native Jennifer Kupcho has claimed three LPGA titles, including a major championship.
While Schalk will be competing in his first Senior PGA Championship — in fact, his first PGA Tour or PGA Tour Champions event, not counting Q-school — he’ll be joined at that prestigious tournament by three other members of the Colorado PGA Section as they all met the grade by placing in the top 35 on Sunday: Doug Rohrbaugh of Carbondale (17th place, 72-71-68-78—289), Micah Rudosky of Cortez, winner of the last two Colorado PGA Professional Championships (26th, 72-73-69-77—291) and Dave Arbuckle of Colorado Springs (35th, 72-69-74-78—293). Arbuckle secured the final Senior PGA Championship berth by making birdie on the first playoff hole.
It will be Rohrbaugh’s fifh Senior PGA berth, Rudosky’s third straight and Arbuckle’s fourth, but first since 2011.
Here are the scores — and final positions — of all the Coloradans at the Senior PGA Professional Championship:
1. Matt Schalk, Erie 69-68-66-75–278
17. Doug Rohrbaugh, Carbondale 72-71-68-78—289
26. Micah Rudosky 72-73-69-77–291
35. Dave Arbuckle, Colorado Springs 72-69-74-78–293
MC. Mike Zaremba, Pueblo West 69-74-78–221
MC. Chris Johnson, Castle Rock 72-74-76–222
MC. Grant Jackson, Aurora 74-74–148
MC. Perry Holmes, Denver 74-74–148
MC. Sherry Andonian-Smith, Centennial 70-78–148
MC. Mark Avery, Commerce City 75-78–153
For all the results, CLICK HERE.