Making a Run for the Border

It might seem out of place for a Colorado Golf Association trophy, but the award that goes to the winner of the 49th CGA Senior Match Play will spend the next year in … Wyoming.

John Hornbeck — a resident of the southern Wyoming town of Saratoga, which sits about 30 miles north of the Colorado border as the crow flies — came to the Centennial State and left with the Senior Match Play hardware on Thursday.

In a title match that was completed by 9:20 a.m. at Buffalo Run Golf Course in Commerce City, Hornbeck defeated Steve Ivan of Patty Jewett Golf Course in Colorado Springs, 5 and 3, possibly starting a friendly, golf-related variation of the Border War.

Hornbeck, who has been voted into the Golf Hall of Fame in Wyoming, is no stranger to competing in Colorado. He qualified in the Centennial State for the 2016 U.S. Senior Open, along with the 2014 and ’16 U.S. Senior Amateur. He made the semifinals of last year’s CGA Senior Match Play and finished eighth in the 2017 CGA Senior Amateur that Ivan won. He’s also tried three other times in Colorado to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open — 2015, ’17 and ’18 — falling short in each case.

“I enjoy coming down here and playing with all these guys” in Colorado, the 60-year-old said. “Since I qualified for (the 2016 U.S. Senior Open), I’ve met a lot of nice senior players and I’ve developed some friendships. They’ve said, ‘Come on down. We’d love to play with you.’ I love playing with them.

“And I like the golf courses (in Colorado). There’s a lot of real nice, unique golf courses down here. The ones in Wyoming, I’ve been playing my whole life. I enjoy playing golf, and this gives me another month or two to play golf.”

So now Hornbeck (pictured above and below) has his first CGA championship to go with more than a dozen he’s won in Wyoming in the 15 years in which he’s been competing at golf. That includes all four state senior match plays that have been contested in Wyoming.

“I really enjoy the competition,” he said. “It brings out the youth in you, I guess.”

On the national level, besides playing in the 2016 U.S. Senior Open, where he missed the cut, Hornbeck has qualified for three U.S. Senior Amateurs, advancing to match play on each occasion. In fact, he made the quarterfinals in that national event in 2016.

On Thursday, Hornbeck not only never trailed in the match, he never lost a hole. Neither golfer played particularly well on the front nine as Hornbeck finished 2 over par and Ivan 3 over. They halved eight of the nine holes, with Hornbeck winning the par-3 seventh with a par to take a 1-up lead.

But the Wyoming golfer, who had missed two very short putts on the front nine, heated up on the back. He won Nos. 10 and 11 with 7-foot birdies — the first birdies of the day by either player — and No. 13 with a par after Ivan failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker.

“I’ve been pretty confident all week. I’ve been hitting the ball really well,” said Hornbeck, who only had one match go to the 17th or 18th hole this week. “I knew if I could just get the putter going that it would probably go my way.”

Hornbeck closed things out on the 15th hole after putting his approach shot 8 feet from the flag. Ivan just missed the green and, after hitting a poor chip, conceded the match without further ado.

“I haven’t really hit my driver well all week. I’ve really struggled (with that),” said Ivan, a former University of Colorado golfer who was a teammate of 1996 U.S. Open champion Steve Jones for one year at CU. “I didn’t put any pressure on (Hornbeck). I didn’t hit quality shots like I need to and like I did in the (2017 CGA Senior Amateur). It’s OK. I’m still here. I’m alive. I’m still retired.”

Ivan (left), winner of the 1979 CGA Junior Match Play in addition to last year’s CGA Senior Amateur, hit fewer than half of the greens in regulation during the title match and never had the honors on the teebox. Hornbeck, who was much longer off the tee, took advantage of that length.

“People can’t believe I’m getting longer,” Hornbeck said. “I’m not buying any new equipment to speak of. But I’m as long as I ever was, even when I was back in my 30s.

“When you’re coming in with a shorter iron, it’s always an advantage. You can fire more at the stick. In senior golf when we move up a set of tees once in a while, that’s where I have a little advantage.”

And with Ivan’s driver being problematic, that exacerbated the issue.

“I didn’t hit my driver well, so then I started hitting my 3-wood,” the 56-year-old said. “But you can’t be aggressive when you’re hitting long irons or hybrids into those greens versus short irons.

“John is very consistent with that driver. Whenever you’re swinging well, you pick the piece of grass you want to land (the ball) on. That’s all you see. But when you’re swinging bad, you see everything, and that’s not a good thing.”

Looking ahead, Ivan has a possibility of competing in a major event in his hometown before the month is over. He finished fourth on Memorial Day at The Broadmoor in qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open, which put him in the second alternate position, behind Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Bill Loeffler. But given that Loeffler lives in Castle Pines and Ivan in Colorado Springs, it’s possible they’ll get a call should a few players in the U.S. Senior Open field at The Broadmoor have to withdraw, particularly just prior to the start of the championship.

The CGA Senior Match Play is limited to players 52 and older.

CGA Senior Match Play
At Buffalo Run GC in Commerce City

   John Hornbeck, Collindale GC, def. Bob Chandler, Overland Park GC, 5 and 4
   Victor Minovich, Foothills GC, def. Bill Irwin, Highlands Ranch GC, 2 up
   Steve Ivan, Patty Jewett GC, def. Keith Atkins, 2 and 1
    Kent Moore, Cherry Hills CC, def. Robin Bradbury, Walnut Creek Golf Preserve, 1 up
   John Hornbeck, Collindale GC, def. Victor Minovich, Foothills GC, 4 and 2
    Steve Ivan, Patty Jewett GC, def. Kent Moore, Cherry Hills CC, 20 holes
  John Hornbeck, Collindale GC, def. Steve Ivan, Patty Jewett GC, 5 and 3

For all the results from Buffalo Run, CLICK HERE.