Back in the mid-1980s, Bill Fowler received a rough initiation to the highest level of amateur competition in Colorado. Brandt Jobe was a contemporary of his, and given that Jobe has gone on to a PGA Tour career in which he's won more than $9 million, that's pretty stout company.
In 1985, Fowler finished second and third, respectively, in the CGA Match Play and Stroke Play -- behind Jobe on each occasion. In that year's 36-hole Match Play final, Fowler ran into the buzzsaw that was Jobe, who won 12 and 11. Fowler remembers Jobe being 13 under par for the 25 holes that they played.
Coincidentally, a CGA banner featuring a likeness of Jobe was flying next to the 18th green Thursday at Colorado Golf Club in Parker. Only this time, that was where Fowler was winning another CGA championship of his own, the Senior Stroke Play.
Fowler (left and above), a former CGA president who plays out of the Club at Rolling Hills, made the Senior Stroke Play his third CGA championship title, coming 26 years after his first (the 1989 Mid-Amateur) and 10 after his second (the 2005 Western Chapter).
"It means a lot to me," the 52-year-old said of Thursday's victory. "I won the Mid-Am in 1989. That was a long time ago. It's hard to stay competitive for a long time, as you know, but I've tried. I love to play in competition because that tells you how good you are."
Fowler broke a tie and pulled away in the middle of the back nine Thursday, then held on for a two-stroke victory.
He shot a 6-over-par 78 in the final round at Colorado Golf Club, which proved one of the most difficult venues ever to host the Senior Stroke Play. Indeed, Fowler's winning total of 8-over-par 224 was the highest at the Senior Stroke Play since Larry Eaton claimed the title with a 226 total in 1991 at Gleneagle Golf Club.
The fact that the course played so hard this week suited Fowler just fine. Not coincidentally, he also qualified for the 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball -- with Robert Polk -- at Colorado Golf Club.
"I play very hard golf courses very well," Fowler said. "I tend to focus more when the course is difficult. I do like hard golf courses."
"I've played this golf course a lot and I feel very comfortable here. I love the course; it suits my eye. I've played very well here over the years."
Another thing that played into Fowler's hands were the very challenging green complexes at Colorado Golf Club, which has hosted the 2013 Solheim Cup and the 2010 Senior PGA Championship. In some respects, his home club of Rolling Hills trained him very well for the situation. Interestingly, Fowler will be defending his Senior Stroke Play title next year at Rolling Hills.
"You have to visualize things here (at Colorado Golf Club) that you probably don't at other clubs," he said. "Playing at Rolling Hills my whole life, that has given me a way to see things that other people don't see. So I love the greens (at Colorado Golf Club) and can read them generally."
Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Kent Moore (left, and above with Fowler) of Cherry Hills Country Club placed second at 226 after closing with a 75 on Thursday. Moore has finished second, first and second in the last three CGA Senior Stroke Plays.
Jeff Oneth (below) , playing his home course, came in third at 228 after a final-round 76. Robin Bradbury (bottom) of Heritage at Westmoor, the leader after the first two rounds, struggled to an 88 on Thursday, which left him at 233. That fourth-place showing gave him top-four finishes at both the CGA Senior Match Play and Senior Stroke Play in 2015. David Delich of The Broadmoor Golf Club, winner of this year's CGA Senior Match Play, came in fifth at 234.
Moore, who was 1 under par for the day through 12 holes, shared the lead at that point with Fowler. But his approach shot on No. 13 landed in a bunker right of the green, which left him with a brutally fast downhill shot to the pin, and his ball trickled into the bunker below the hole. Eventually, he posted a double bogey, while Fowler parred to gain a two-stroke lead.
"I hit the bunker shot as good as I could hit it and didn't even think (his ball going into the opposite bunker) could happen," Moore said. "I couldn't hit it much softer and it still went in."
Fowler birdied the next two holes -- from 12 and 4 feet, respectively -- accounting for a five-stroke swing in three-hole stretch. From there, even a bogey-bogey-double bogey finish left him with a little cushion to spare. On No. 18, a second shot that finished left of the bushes bordering the green complex resulted in an unplayable lie, but a good recovery shot kept things from getting real interesting on the final hole.
As for Moore, he pointed to the sometimes-confounding par-5 16th as his downfall. There, he went 4 over par in three days -- bogey, double bogey, bogey -- while going into the water twice.
"I should have played another practice round," said Moore, fresh off the U.S. Senior Amateur in New Jersey. "I made 6-7-6 on No. 16 and I played it three different ways -- and I really only hit one bad shot. (After today's bogey it was like) 'I just cannot play this hole.'
"I lost it not thinking well enough and not knowing the course. It was my mistake."
But Moore was quick to credit Fowler's solid play on a very demanding layout.
"Bill played great," he said. "He hit nothing but solid shots until the last one, which really didn't matter. He really played well."
Fowler, a member -- or the son of members -- at Rolling Hills since age 12, has been competing in CGA (or CJGA) tournaments for the last 40 years. He estimates he's played in between 50 and 80 all told, which makes victories like Thursday's all the more sweet.
"Even when I had little kids, that was my hall pass to go play a CGA championship," he said.
CGA Senior Stroke Play
At Par-72 Colorado GC in Parker
Bill Fowler, Club at Rolling Hills, 71-75-78--224
Kent Moore, Cherry Hills CC, 74-77-75--226
Jeff Oneth, Colorado GC, 76-76-76--228
Robin Bradbury, Heritage at Westmoor, 69-76-88--233
David Delich, The Broadmoor GC, 84-73-77--234
Robert Polk, Colorado GC, 79-85-71--235
Thomas Roos, Spring Valley GC, 77-76-82--235
Michael Smith, Rifle Creek GC, 77-80-78--235
Bob Beiersdorf, The Ridge CPN, 77-81-77--235
Dan Falagrady, Heritage at Westmoor, 80-79-76--235
John Olive, The Broadmoor GC, 78-77-81--236
Owen Ellis, Flatirons GC, 82-77-77--236
Robert West, Cherry Creek CC, 84-73-80--237
David Merritt, Meridian GC, 79-81-78--238
Keith Atkins, Harmony Club, 84-77-77--238
Guy Mertz, Fox Hill Club, 81-80-78--239
Harry Johnson, Eagle Ranch GC, 83-77-79--239
Kary Kaltenbacher, Glenmoor CC, 77-77-86--240
Brian O'Hara, Lakewood CC, 78-75-87--240
Brian Harris, Denver CC, 80-83-77--240
John Sostman, Meadows GC, 83-80-79--242
Bruce Hogg, Patty Jewett GC, 85-78-80--243
Brent Timm, Pinery CC, 80-84-79--243
Charlie Post, Colorado GC, 81-81-82--244
Gary Driber, The Ridge CPN, 79-84-81--244
Lance Balthaser, Englewood GC, 85-80-80--245
Jeff Slupe, Ptarmigan CC, 80-86-79--245
Bill Bolgar, The Ridge CPN, 80-83-82--245
Bob Cloud, CommonGround GC, 79-83-84--246
Dennis Fields, Heritage at Westmoor, 80-79-87--246
Grant Porter, CommonGround GC, 83-83-81--247
Larry Netherton, Highlands Ranch GC, 85-79-84--248
John Ingram, Hiwan GC, 87-79-82--248
Dave Runberg, CommonGround GC, 83-80-86--249
John Williams, Colorado GC, 83-80-86--249
Mark Armistead, Highlands Ranch GC, 83-80-87--250
Paul Edwards, Meridian GC, 82-83-85--250
Pat Bowe, CommonGround GC, 84-80-87--251
James Pullin, Olde Course at Loveland, 83-78-91--252
James Sisneros, Eisenhower GC, 86-80-88--254
Tim Kneen, Colorado GC, 77-74-WD--WD
Missed 36-Hole Cut
Brian Woody, The Ridge at CPN, 85-82--167
Roger Gunderson, CommonGround GC, 84-84--168
Pat Stanton, Breckenridge GC, 91-78--169
Rod Walters, Heritage at Westmoor, 83-87--170
Steve Ivan, Patty Jewett GC, 81-89--170
Mark Inboden, Raccoon Creek GC, 86-84--170
Don Mayo, Legacy Ridge GC, 90-80--170
Rick George, Castle Pines GC, 86-85--171
Robert Bulthaup, Valley CC, 86-86--172
Kirk Blaszyk, Glenwood Springs GC, 92-80--172
Red Cunningham, Aspen Glen Club, 87-85--172
Randy Kippes, Saddle Rock GC, 88-84--172
Jay Gomer, Indian Peaks GC, 83-89--172
Joe Distefano, Telluride Ski & GC, 92-81--173
John Applegate, Meadow Hills GC, 86-87--173
David Snow, Saddle Rock GC, 84-89--173
Bradley Becker, Plum Creek GC, 87-86--173
Steve Bell, Denver CC, 85-89--174
Pat Bucci, West Woods GC, 88-86--174
Joe Morrill, Eagle Ranch GC, 86-89--175
Jerry Beren, Lone Tree GC, 88-87--175
Bob Maggard, CommonGround GC, 88-87--175
Ken Bailey, Telluride Ski & GC, 92-83--175
Louie Jardon, Springs Ranch GC, 85-90--175
Laird M Middleton, Coal Creek GC, 86-91--177
Glenn Hyde, Riverdale GC, 87-90--177
Steve Mace Feder, Cherry Creek CC, 97-80--177
Greg A Thiesen, Columbine CC, 82-98--180
Bob Utberg, South Suburban FSC, 92-88--180
Mark Brown, Highlands Ranch GC, 90-91--181
Scott Crone, Pinehurst CC, 94-87--181
Frank Wilkinson, Lincoln Park GC, 102-81--183
David Draper, Green Valley Ranch, 96-87--183
Randy Miller, Boulder CC, 93-93--186
Terry Hymans, Clubcorp Colorado, 93-95--188
Frank Wilson, Lakewood CC, 106-88--194
Bruce Hayes, Heritage at Westmoor, 89-DQ
Kelly Crone, Highlands Ranch GC, 92-WD
Sean Forey, Bear Creek GC, 85-WD
Bob Chandler, Heritage at Westmoor, 85-NS
David Comeau, Fox Hollow GC, 88-WD