Enstrom’s Rocky Mountain Open® Golf Tournament, the longest running continuous, open golf tournament in the state of Colorado, is celebrating its 78th year in 2016.
The RMO began in 1939 as the first golf tournament in Western Colorado where both amateur and professional golfers could compete together for their own prizes. Lincoln Park Golf Course was the site of the 54 hole tournament played on two days. It was sponsored by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce with assistance from Hayden Newton, the pro at Lincoln Park. Chet Enstrom, grandfather of Jamee Simons, was the first tournament chairman. Jamee and her husband Doug Simons, owners of Enstrom Candies, now sponsor the Rocky Mountain Open. Purses have varied through the years beginning with $500 – $750 shared among the professional winners and $250 for the amateurs. In 1942 $1,000 in war bonds were awarded to the pros with a $50 war bond for each of the amateur winners. Also by the 1940’s the RMO began to get national publicity. Pros came from both coasts. Noted players included Mildred (Babe) Didrikson Zaharas, world famous female athlete, who finished third as an amateur in 1946 and returned in 1950 to play in the pro flight. The late Orville Moody, U.S.Open winner in 1969, won the RMO® in 1975. Locally, Harold “Skeet” Sommers, long time pro at Lincoln Park, and his professional golf sons, Dan and Jack, were RMO winners numerous times.
Participation has grown from the original 60 players to the current 200 players with an estimated purse of $70,000. Some changes to the original format have occurred during the 70 years of the RMO. Gallery tickets for both days cost $1.00 the first year, but spectators were soon welcomed for free and could follow their favorite players around the course. The original 54 hole tournament has been expanded to three days with 18 holes played each day rather than 36 holes on the second day. Tiara Rado Golf Course was added in 2000 by the Western Colorado Golf Foundation as the second course to accommodate the growing pro and amateur fields. USGA rules, unless modified by local rules, have governed play for all 70 years. The local golfers who played in the 1939 tournament were reported to have practiced to remember to follow their “summer rules” where the golfer had to play the ball from its lie.
The Western Colorado Golf Foundation has continued to keep the RMO as a premier professional and amateur tournament. In 2001 it expanded the RMO to fund college scholarships for Western Colorado high school golfers. Through its direction and dedication, the RMO has not only offered the same great tournament started in 1939, but also has provided over $130,000 in needed financial assistance to young golfers from the area. Colorado Golf Association officials assist in maintaining the high caliber of play.
The RMO combines challenging play on two excellent golf courses with the opportunity for both professional and amateur golfers to enjoy the spectacular scenery of the Grand Mesa and Colorado National Monument while assisting young golfers to reach their educational goals. What a great opportunity for the golfing community!