Cottonwood promises to be a classic

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The story lines are abundant as golfers tee off today at the Yampa Valley Golf Course for the 37th-annual Cottonwood Classic. From the tournament veterans to stacked competition to returning champions, the Cottonwood promises to be a classic in 2005.

Craig's Larry Seip, Deems Utzinger and Jim Shepard have missed a grand total of two Cottonwoods among the three of them. That makes for 79 of 81 tournaments. Utzinger has perfect attendance.

The Championship Flight is one of the most competitive there has been for the tournament, YVGC professional Chuck Cobb said.

Included in that flight are four college players and four returning champions.

Jeff Franks of Steamboat Springs and a junior-to-be at the University of Wyoming is returning to defend his title from last year. The 2003 champion, Chris Smith of Grand Junction and a senior-to-be at Colorado State University-Pueblo, is back with his crew and camping out at the course. Luke Antonelli of Rifle and a senior-to-be at the University of San Diego will be here, along with Grand Junction's Eric Winder, a future sophomore at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Other returning champions are Steve Dodson of Steam--boat Springs and Preston Ivy of Craig.

Need more storylines?

Just go and hang out with the campers/golfers tonight and Saturday night. The tents and campers are lined along the parking lot of the course. Those guys will provide plenty of stories, and they may even invite you to join a midnight chipping contest.

"We have at least two-thirds of this year's field returning from last year," Cobb said. "It's like a golfing fraternity that is here for the weekend."

The full field of 202 golfers start teeing off at 7 a.m. today. Nice weather is predicted for the July 4 weekend. This summer has brought pleasant weather for the course.

"The weather has been so conducive for growing grass," Cobb said. "The course will be the best most of these guys have seen it."

Prize money for the tournament is about $14,430, the richest purse at the YVGC during the year.

The course will be closed to the public through the weekend and will re-open Monday.

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