Colorado Open field filled with returning champs |

Colorado Open field filled with returning champs

Ryan Slabaugh

Included in the field is defending champion Brett Wayment, of Logan, Utah, who won with a clever two-putt on 18 to finish at 7-under-par after a final round 68. Also in the field are Gary Longfellow (1974), James Blair (1983,1987), Chris Endres (1989), Bill Loeffler (1991, 1993), Mike Zaremba (1995), Shane Bertsch (1998) and Scott Petersen (2000). Blair shot an opening-round 63 last year before fading to the middle of the pack, and remains one to watch.

But chances are, the duo of John Elway and Derek Tolan will be a little more recognizable. Tolan, of Highlands Ranch, qualified to play in the U.S. Open this year, while Elway, well, is to Colorado what the driver is to golf. It’s the one everybody knows.

Elway, who made the cut last year, and Tolan will be teeing off at 12:45 p.m. Thursday.

Some locals will also be shooting for the championship, in its 39th year. Red Sky Ranch head pro Jeff Hanson’s made every cut since 1989.

“It takes accurate iron play,” said Hanson, who shot a 67 in the second round last year, after an opening 79. “To play well, you have to hit the greens they make super hard and fast. You have to keep the balls below the hole. Whoever does that, will have a decent chance.”

Cordillera Summit Course pro Brock Sloan will be playing in his fourth Open and made the cut for the first time last year. Sloan finished at 14-over-par last year, but picked up a check for $454.

“I don’t think length’s a premium,” Sloan said. He’ll be the first golfer on the course at 7:30 a.m. during Thursday’s opening round, and the first to finish. “It’s always fun to be the leader in the clubhouse. I think the morning tee time will benefit me. The greens will be untracked.”

Hanson will be teeing off at 8:42 a.m. Thursday. Other locals include Doug Wall, pro at Sonnenalp, Bill Amundsen of Avon, Eric Bradley of Eagle and Ken Sady of Avon.

For Hanson, making the cut hasn’t been good enough. In fact, he’s reserving the time he wins as his favorite memory.

“As far as a memorable moment,” he said, “I haven’t had one since I haven’t won.”

Still, it’s more than just about winning. For most local pros, it means a break from member tournaments and lessons, lessons, lessons.

“It’s just good to compete against these guys. They’re tough to beat,” Hanson said.

Notes: 2001 low amateur Erik Billinger is returning, but as a professional… Wayment won 32,400 for his win last year… One qualifying round remains today, which will fill the 45-member field… Also this week is Monday’s 4-Ball Amateur Championship starting at Beaver Creek Golf Course, and the Colorado Open Pro-Am Wednesday at Sonnenalp… Colorado AvidGolfer Magazine became the main sponsor this year.

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