This is going to sound like a paid advertisement for The Broadmoor, and I’m perfectly OK with that: the East course is one beautiful devil.
You wouldn’t want to meet her on Tinder, I’ll tell you that. She's a looker, all right — right up until she takes your wallet, an extra sleeve of golf balls and any semblance of pride still left in your heart. “Tough, tough golf course,” John Elway said Monday.
She got ol’ No. 7. Got him good. Truth is, Elway played respectably en route to a 10-over-par 80 in a U.S. Senior Open qualifier, which wasn't enough to qualify the Broncos general manager for the big show. Even par through four. Lipped out a birdie on the nefarious par-3 fourth. Elway fist-bumped playing partner Sam Chapman, a Parker man, after a long par putt on No. 6 and chatted up a gallery that grew to 300 or 400 adoring Broncomaniacs.
“Biggest crowd I’ve ever seen for a qualifier,” said Robbie Zalzneck, the USGA’s director of U.S. Open Championship management. “And I’ve been doing this for 20 years.”
They came for John Elway, the honorary chairman of the U.S. Senior Open.
They were blown away by the golf course.
“This rough is what’s making it so tough,” said Springs resident and Broadmoor member Ken Beach, swishing his sneakers through the 3.5-inch thick stuff. “I played on Monday and lost five golf balls. Just in the rough!”
The U.S. Senior Open comes to The Broadmoor from June 25-July 1, and when 66 hopefuls attempted to qualify on Monday there was one thing I wanted to know: does the USGA tone down the course conditions for a, ahem, more experienced playing field that doesn't bomb it through the dogleg?
Ha! Yeah, right. The East beast goes 7,150 yards and they’ve turned the 525-yard 17th into a par 4 to make it a par 70. Several fairways have been narrowed, the greens are going to harden, and the rough is worth a one-stroke penalty. This Senior Open isn’t going to be “hey, let's take it easy so y’all come back and see us again” type of thing. It’s going to be a “I need one of those dispensaries you guys are famous for” thing.
“This course doesn’t let up,” said Mark Kelbel, The Broadmoor’s head pro. “It’s shot after shot after shot, putt after putt after putt. There’s really nowhere to take a breath.”
Don’t take my word for it. Take that of six-time PGA Tour winner Rocco Mediate, who was in town for a practice round: “It’s awesome.” Or his Monday playing partner, Lee Janzen, the two-time U.S Open champ.
“He got lucky a couple times back in the old days,” Mediate said.
“There’s not going to be many adjustments out here,” Janzen said. “This is how it will be.”
This is how it was: only five guys broke 77. These are good players, too, sticks like Denver’s Billy Loeffler (shot 74), a Walker Cup champ in 1987 and Colorado Golf Hall of Famer; Lakewood’s Ron Vlosich (78), a five-time Colorado PGA Player of the Year; Dave Delich (83), the all-time leading scorer for Colorado College hockey and a former Broadmoor club champion. The Broadmoor’s East course is golf in HD, seducing you with mountain views before reminding you who's really in charge around here. The only guarantees are the serenading chimes from Cheyenne Mountain — the 2 p.m. ring stopped Elway in his backswing — and a dose of humility.
“It’s all about hitting fairways,” said Carbondale’s Doug Rohrbaugh, a two-time Colorado PGA champ and golf instructor out of Snowmass. “If you’re even a foot into thick stuff you’re in trouble.”
Somebody buy Doug a cocktail. He shot 69, the only score to break par. It’s no coincidence the two men who qualified on Monday — Rohrbaugh and Chris Johnson out of Castle Rock — arrived fresh off last week’s Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor, Mich. Their minds were right, their short games on point, and it showed in their final score.
“That course (at the PGA Championship) was playing much easier than this one,” Rohrbaugh said.
The whole joint stood firmly in Elway’s corner. One kid matched his Rickie Fowler orange with a No. 7 jersey. Another guy puffed on a Vape pen and reminisced about the Elwaycopter in Super Bowl XXXII. Kent and Patrick Murphy — father and son — have tickets for the Senior Open and dibs on the Monday night game against the Chiefs game on Oct. 1.
“Got here bright and early to see John on the driving range,” Patrick said, wearing a No. 7 jersey. “Even got to shake his hand. He walked right over to us to say hi. Made my day.”
“I was reading in the (Gazette) today that Case Keenum beat John by two shots,” Kent said.
Yes, sir, appreciate your readership.
“Shame on you for talking down to John Elway!”
For a guy who “didn’t play for about two months” leading into the NFL draft, Elway held his own. The East didn’t bite back and turn his round sideways until the par-5 ninth, where Elway put one in the drink and missed a five-footer for a double bogey. Elway shot 40 on the front, 40 on the back and raved on and on about the immaculate course conditions.
“(On the first tee) I was hoping I wouldn’t hit anybody on the sides there,” he said.
What I learned from Elway’s trip to The Broadmoor was that he’s high on Keenum’s leadership, still has faith that Paxton Lynch can become a NFL starter, and he’s just looking for shots when he says he’s short off the tee. Maybe a little wayward at times, but definitely not short.
“It’s playing very, very hard," Elway said of the East course. "It’s a great experience to play the conditions that they’re playing in the Senior Open. It’s a different feel. I enjoyed it. We had a good time.”
Don't know about you, but I can’t wait for the Senior Open. The Broadmoor's hosted the U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Senior Open, a U.S. Amateur won by Jack Nicklaus. This one's going to be a treat, and here's a hunch the golf course itself steals the show.