Written by: Gary Baines (excerpted) - 10/27/2016
M.J. Mastalir turned 70 years old earlier this month, and on Thursday he received a belated birthday gift that certainly was worth waiting for as he was voted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.
On Thursday, the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame Board of Directors selected Mastalir to become the lone person enshrined in the 45th class of inductees. That induction will take place May 21 at the Santuary in Sedalia.
"It's a nice honor -- and humbling," Mastalir said in a phone interview. "I've been really fortunate. I've worn a lot of different hats in golf, I've met a lot of nice people and gone to a lot of nice places." (Mastalir is pictured above in blue, flanked by two current Colorado Golf Hall of Famers, Kent Moore and the late Jim English.)
Also honored at the May 21 dinner will be three Colorado Golf Hall of Fame award winners: the new Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado, Jennifer Kupcho of Westminster, and Rick Polmear of Greenwood Village. The JGAC will receive the Distinguished Service Award, Kupcho the Golf Person of the Year Award, and Polmear the Lifetime Achievement Award. (See details about those honorees below.)
As for the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame award winners, here's the rundown:
Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado (Distinguished Service Award): A combined effort of the CGA and the Colorado PGA, with the CWGA serving as a contributing partner, the JGAC proved a big success in its inaugural year. The idea of the alliance is to streamline, improve and expand the junior golf experience in Colorado, and it hit the mark in 2016.
Membership in the JGAC is up about 16 percent from what it was for the CJGA in 2015, and tournament participation jumped 23.5 percent, not counting PGA Junior League Golf and the Drive, Chip & Putt events.
Kids playing in Colorado-based Drive, Chip & Putt competitions increased almost 15 percent from 2015. For the PGA Junior League Golf in Colorado, the number of kids, teams and facilities participating roughly doubled in 2016 compared to 2015. And if fall projections prove accurate, almost 28 percent more kids will be reached this year than last through the Colorado PGA Golf in Schools Program, with the total for 2016 expected to be 10,101.
Even with some spring events canceled due to the weather, there were more than 80 junior tournaments that the JGAC oversaw in 2016, highlighted by the four major championships for both boys and girls.
Jennifer Kupcho (Golf Person of the Year): The 19-year-old from Westminster, the CWGA Player of the Year in both 2014 and '15, took another big step in 2016.
She finished sixth individually in the women's NCAA Championship finals and qualified for the U.S. Women's Open, arguarbly the top women's golf tournament in the world. Kupcho also swept the CWGA Match Play and Stroke Play titles, becoming the first player to do so in 12 years. In winning by huge margins in 2016 (12 and 10 in the Match Play final, and by 19 shots in the Stroke Play), she became the first golfer since the 1980s to win three straight CWGA "majors". And earlier this month, the Wake Forest sophomore won her first individual title at a college tournament, breaking a Demon Deacons' women's program record with a 15-under-par 201 total at the Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational, where she prevailed by six strokes.
Rick Polmear (Lifetime Achievement Award): Polmear, a University of Michigan Evans Scholar alum who has lived in Colorado since 1981, has long been a tireless supporter of the college scholarship for caddies. But he took that support to a new level as the volunteer project manager for the $6 million University of Colorado Evans Scholars house renovation and expansion project, which was completed early this year.
Polmear estimates he devoted about 1,000 hours to the project over the course of three years. The end result is a house almost totally redone on the inside, the addition of roughly 2,000 square feet of finished space (bringing the total to about 18K), and a nifty new outdoor area behind the house that features a combination lighted basketball/volleyball court and a congregating area with brick pavers that Polmear refers to as a "plaza". All in all, it's been a huge upgrade for the 50-plus current CU Evans Scholars.
Polmear has served as a volunteer director for the Western Golf Association -- which administers the Evans Scholarship nationwide -- since 1990.