The professionals

Yampa Valley Golf Course adds two pros to staff

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Neither Ann Marie Hamilton nor Brett Etzler came to Craig with a job. But it didn't take too long for the golf professionals to find their way to what they left behind -- the trimmed greens and lush fairways of a golf course.

Hamilton came back to her hometown to visit family. Days turned into weeks during the visit, and the former MCHS golfer ended up taking the girls high school golf coaching job and working for the man who had given her first lesson.

"Chuck (Cobb) taught me a lot," Hamilton said about her new boss. "Now I'm helping him teach."

Etzler had applied for jobs in Colorado during his time at Reynolds Plantation in Greens-boro, Ga., but didn't have any luck. Then his wife, Marie, applied for jobs as a lab technician and was hired at The Memorial Hospital.

"We'd been to Colorado to snowboard and ski," he said. "We wanted to be out here and my wife gave us the chance."

This spring, the two are the new faces at the Yampa Valley Golf Course.

Etzler, a Fort Wayne, Ind., native, majored in professional golf management at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. After graduating with a PGA Class A membership, he worked for a year at the Troon Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., before going to the Reynolds Plantation for eight years.

"I spent my last eight years at a private, exclusive course," Etzler said. "This is more my pace."

Hamilton grew up playing with her brothers, Eric and Brian, and her dad Greg. Her mom's role was to make sure everybody was transported to the junior tournaments around the state.

She played golf at a time when the girls played on the boys team. during her junior and senior years, she was consistently in the top three on the team in the results.

She graduated in 1988 and went to Crete, Neb., to attend school at Doane College. She earned an education degree, but one day she literally walked right into a job at a junior golf course.

"I walked in, and the pro was mobbed by kids," she said. "I asked him if he needed some help, and he hired me almost on the spot."

After her stint in Nebraska, she became an LPGA Class A certified pro in at the Country Club of Wilbraham in Massachusetts. While in Massachusetts, she had the opportunity to play in the Friendly Classic, a LPGA tour event in 1997.

Both new additions are working on plans for the summer.

"We want to hit the junior program hard," Hamilton said.

Private lessons, clinics and classes at Colorado North-western Community College are a few of the items on the list.

And don't forget about the biggest bonus: getting paid to hang out at a golf course.

"I'm excited to playing here again," Hamilton said.

Hamilton said the course is almost the exact same one she snuck onto in high school to take chips on the 17th green.

In Georgia, Etzler's courses were open all year.

He said the itch that all of the YVGA members had to scratch after the winter reminded him of home in Fort Wayne.

"Putting the clubs away is a little different, but it's fun to see the anticipation from everybody," he said. "I think I'll enjoy the downtime and do a lot of snowboarding."

One difference for the new guy and woman is that Etzler is learning everybody's faces and names for the first time ("It's the hardest part"), whereas Hamilton is getting to see a lot of familiar faces ("It's fun to see the people again").

A similarity is how much they enjoy the course and the people they work for.

"Just the other day, I heard someone say, 'This is one of the best courses I've played.'" Hamilton said. "Everyone has meshed well here and it's a comfortable atmosphere."

Etzler, who played daddy daycare for his sons, Connor, 4, and Tanner, 2, during the winter, said, "The members are all very friendly and laid back."

New plans for the summer are for a short-game clinic and more trips to pro-am tournaments.

"I enjoy promoting the game and helping people," Etzler said.

Hamilton will have a chance to work with some of her high school golfers.

"We'll hit hard on their swings all summer," she said.

Cobb, who oversees the operations at the course, said both employees are welcome additions.

"Having a woman pro is great for our ladies members, and she brings knowledge for everybody," he said.

"Brett's great because he fits in well."

Overall the new employees said they are ready help anyone who asks and keep up the tradition of a golf course that often is considered one of the best-kept secrets in Colorado.

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