Golfer finds win at tourney win more than just a-peelin'

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If he wasn't before, Chris Smith is now a fan of eating bananas while golfing.

The 19-year-old from Grand Junction fueled a comeback Sunday with bananas and two tremendous shots, one to force a playoff and the second to win the 36th annual Cottonwood Classic Golf Tournament at the Yampa Valley Golf Course in Craig.

Smith, who will attend the University of Southern Colorado next year after two years at Lamar Community College, began the day five shots behind Steve Dodson of Steamboat Springs, a Cottonwood champion in 1996. As Dodson bogeyed the sixth, seventh and eighth, Smith was busy making up shots. When they made the turn to the back nine, Smith had made up three shots on Dodson.

The bogey bug stuck with Dodson on 10 and 11 and as they teed of at 12, the two were tied for the lead. That is when one of Smith's friends, whom Smith camped out with during the tournament near the old clubhouse location, gave him a banana to snack on.

The co-leaders pared 13 and 14. Then Dodson regained the lead on 15 when he birdied and Smith two-putted for par.

Another banana came Smith's way on 15 and by the time they had reached the 18, the 19-year-old was still a shot back.

After his drive crept within 20 feet of out-of-bounds, Smith's second shot landed 20 yards in front of the green. In the meantime, Dodson reached the green in three.

Smith's third shot earned a wedge-dropping look of disgust from its owner as it rolled to the top of the green. It set up a putt that was farther from the hole than Dodson's and gave Smith the first big-pressure shot of the final hole with a 15-foot putt for birdie.

Smith sunk the putt and gave an emphatic fist pump.

"That putt was the biggest shot of the day for me," he said. "If I didn't make that, there wouldn't have been a play off."

Dodson still had a chance to send everybody home with his fourth shot, a shorter putt than the one that Smith had just sunk. It missed by inches and word spread through the clubhouse that it was playoff time.

"I had two good opportunities to end it with putts on 17 and 18," Dodson said. "They both felt good but I was at the mercy of the greens and they weren't forgiving."

The green on the first playoff hole made it up to Dodson. After nearly knocking his second shot into drink on the right side of hole one and then overshooting the green with his fourth shot, Dodson was two feet off the green and 15 feet from the hole for his fifth shot.

Smith, who had received banana number three at the beginning of the playoff, reached in three and it looked as if he had the playoff wrapped up.

Dodson sunk the runner and showed some emotion of his own with a stiff legged run/jump as the ball went in. Smith two putted and the playoff continued.

Both drives on the second hole were typical to the way the co-leaders had played all day -- Dodson's was on the green and shorter, while Smith's was barely on the green, maybe even the intermediate rough, but 40 yards farther. Dodson's approach shot set him up well for a par right at the edge of the green. Then Smith's second shot hit three feet from the hole, bounced twice and rolled in. His camping buddies came and gang tackled him and claimed the bananas had won it for him.

"I guess I like bananas a lot more now," he said. "I've never chipped in a shot from 70 yards before and to do it in a playoff of a tournament was great."

Smith's 70 on Sunday tied Dodson's round Saturday for the best of the tournament.

"I had some chips go in for me on Saturday and only putted 10 times on the front nine," he said. "Chris played well today and he deserved to win. The younger guy got me but I'll be back next year."

Smith's win earned him $450 while Dodson's third second-place finish at the Cottonwood earned him $325 and he also won the senior championship group for an extra $80.

"That was nice to see somebody earn the win on a playoff with a great shot instead of lose it with a bogey," said YVGC professional Tom Dockstader. "It was an exciting end to a great tournament."

Preston Ivy was the top local finisher as he shot a 73 Sunday to move up from fifth to a tie for third.

Other local flight winners were Earl Cherry, 2nd flight, Clarence Moore, 4th flight and Jim Lijedahl, 6th flight.

Complete standings will run in the Tuesday edition of the Craig Daily Press.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or by email at dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com

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