Group of local buyers look to ‘polish’  tournament

Brandon Bingaman watches as his putt barely misses the hole on the sixth green of Bookcliff County Club during the 2013 Rocky Mountain Open. The RMO was recently purchased by a group of local businessmen.

With a vision of returning the Rocky Mountain Open to past glory, a group of local businessmen recently purchased the rights to one of Colorado’s oldest golf tournaments.

The Western Colorado Golf Foundation sold the RMO rights for $30,000 to the group, which has created a nonprofit organization, RMO Golf Inc., that will take cues from Grand Junction Baseball Inc. and the way it runs the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.

“We now have RMO Golf Inc. with a board of directors that exists solely for running and growing this golf tournament,” said Enstrom Candies President Doug Simons, who spearheaded the negotiations along with Monument Oil President Paul Brown, who was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in June.

“They’re enthusiastic about the game, enthusiastic about the community,” Simons said of the board members. “We want to give the RMO the attention and polish we think it needs and that it really deserves.”

The goals of RMO Golf Inc. include: growing the tournament’s number of sponsors; increasing the money it pays out to the golfers and the money it can pass along to charities, scholarships and youth golf programs; and increasing the number of participants.

Simons said RMO Golf Inc. also wants to emulate the JUCO World Series by having a banquet on the eve of the tournament each year and bringing in a high-profile PGA professional to be the guest speaker.

The ownership change happened too late to make much of a difference at this year’s RMO, which will take place Aug. 14-17 at Bookcliff Country Club and Tiara Rado Golf Course.

One thing the group did immediately was resurrect the one-day pro-am on Thursday, and the amateur tournament returns to 54 holes, the same as the pros, after being reduced to 36 holes.

Brown said the tournament, which began in 1939, was suffering from inconsistencies, and that cost it some of the luster it had for decades.

“Back in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and even into the ‘90s, the RMO was probably the second most prestigious tournament in Colorado,” Brown said. “We want to return it to what it was and attract professional golfers from the Rocky Mountain region states and Eastern Slope. We want to make it the serious pro event that it used to be.”

That starts with getting more sponsors in general, but bigger and better sponsors, too, Brown said.

Simons already took one step to change the way sponsorships are handled. His company, Enstrom Candies, has been the RMO’s title sponsor for several years, but it will not be this year. Instead, he said, the tournament simply will be called the Rocky Mountain Open.

“We’ve dropped all the (sponsor) names down below (the tournament’s name),” Simons said. “We want it to be the Rocky Mountain Open sponsored by ...”

Getting more sponsorship dollars will lead to larger purses and draw better professional golfers, and in turn it will bring participation back up where it belongs, Brown said.

Last year, Brown said, the RMO had 100 amateurs and 80 pros playing. He said the goal will be to get 120 to 140 amateurs each year and 100 pros, adding 240 total players is about the maximum the tournament can have.

Ultimately, Simons said, a revived and flourishing RMO will benefit golf in Grand Junction.

He said the Western Colorado Golf Foundation was making about $5,000 each year from the tournament, and he envisions RMO Golf Inc. being able to provide much more than that to many more entities, endowing scholarships, especially to Colorado Mesa University, aiding youth programs such as First Tee, and giving money to other golf organizations.

All of it, Simons and Brown added, is in the name of promoting golf in Grand Junction and keeping the game alive and thriving.

“We’re nurturing the golden goose, so it can throw off some dollars to support golf,” Simons said.

It won’t happen overnight, but it starts with letting people know at this year’s RMO what is coming in future years.

This year’s tournament won’t look much different than last, and Brown acknowledged, “We’re just trying to get through this year.”

To that, Simons added, “Once we get through this, it’s: ‘Katie, bar the door.’ “

Want to be a sponsor?

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor of the Rocky Mountain Open can call Brown at 261-0009.


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