Chester Hinkle, of Hayden, putts on the 10th green Friday during the 43rd Annual Cottonwood Classic at Yampa Valley Golf Course, 2179 Highway 394. More than 150 players signed up for the three-day tournament to compete for cash prizes.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

Chester Hinkle, of Hayden, putts on the 10th green Friday during the 43rd Annual Cottonwood Classic at Yampa Valley Golf Course, 2179 Highway 394. More than 150 players signed up for the three-day tournament to compete for cash prizes.

Golfers open play in Cottonwood Classic in Craig

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Nick Moyer hits his ball Friday from behind a tree after his drive cut left. At 19, the 2009 Moffat County High School graduate was one of the youngest golfers in the field at the Cottonwood Classic.

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Travis Brown, of Craig, hits his ball from left of the fairway on hole 7. Brown put in vacation days back in January to make sure he could be part of the annual golf tournament.

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Hamilton resident Rick Rayl looks for the green Friday during the 43rd Annual Cottonwood Classic.

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Craig resident Dave O’Mailia watches his ball approach the green. Three storm delays slowed the tournament that will continue today and Sunday.

After his father became ill, Hayden resident Chester Hinkle had to cut back on one of his favorite hobbies — golf.

“I used to play in seven to eight golf tournaments a year,” Hinkle said. “Lately, I am down to only a couple (tournaments) a year.”

With the registration deadline looming, Hinkle, 49, decided at the last minute to play in the 43rd Annual Cottonwood Classic at Yampa Valley Golf Course in Craig. Rain delayed the tournament Friday, but after the weather cleared, play began.

“I just decided (Thursday) to come out and play this weekend,” Hinkle said. “It’s one of the better golf tournaments during the summer.”

The three-day golf tournament will continue today and Sunday at Yampa Valley, 2179 Highway 394.

More than 150 golfers registered for the tournament, and were split into six different flights based on their handicap.

The top eight players will win a purse in the championship flight, with the winner taking home $700.

In the other five flights, the player with the best gross score, or score without his or her handicap deducted, will win $700. The top seven net scores from each flight will also win a purse.

All remaining proceeds of the tournament will go toward the golf course’s pro shop.

With some of the best golfers in the area playing in the Cottonwood, Hinkle is hoping the best falter somewhere along the way.

“How we all finish depends on the top players,” he said. “We just have to hope the good players don’t have three good days.”

After a shaky front nine Friday, Hinkle said he is hoping to just survive the weekend.

“It’s a three-day tournament,” he said. “Anything can happen.”

Playing in the Cottonwood Classic was of utmost importance to Craig resident Travis Brown. He said he made sure he wouldn’t have to work over the weekend.

“I work at Twentymile Coal Co., and I put in for vacation all the way back in January,” Brown said.

Brown, who is part of the second flight, said he enjoys playing in all tournaments, no matter the outcome.

“I’m just out here to have fun,” he said. “If I win, that is awesome, and if I don’t, I’m still having a good time.”

Playing alongside Travis Brown was 2009 Moffat County High School graduate Nick Moyer.

Moyer, who played golf his junior and senior year at MCHS, said playing with more experienced golfers was more fun than daunting.

“I just try and come out and play my best round of golf,” he said. “I play aggressive and try to concentrate on the other guys around me.”

His first round of golf wasn’t his best, Moyer said, but he wasn’t worried.

With time to improve, he said he would like to place high in his group.

“My average for 18 holes is around 80,” Moyer said. “If I play good, I think I could place top three in my flight.”

The second round of the tournament begins at 7 a.m. today and Sunday.

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