25th annual Silver Bullet underway at Yampa Valley Golf Course | CraigDailyPress.com

25th annual Silver Bullet underway at Yampa Valley Golf Course

Joshua Gordon

April Branstetter, of Hayden, drives on the 13th hole Friday at Yampa Valley Golf Course. Branstetter is competing in the 25th annual Silver Bullet Classic, which starts today and concludes Sunday.

While men have the Cottonwood Classic golf tournament, this weekend is about female golfers.

The 25th annual Silver Bullet Classic golf tournament begins at 8 a.m. today and will conclude Sunday at Yampa Valley Golf Course, 2179 Colorado Highway 394.

Jason Back, the golf course professional, said the tournament has 74 golfers registered for the two-day tournament, down from about 90 last year.

"All golf tournaments are down because the economy is down itself," he said. "I hate to keep blaming the economy, but there are more tournaments than ever now, and people are choosing to stay around their area instead of traveling for our tournament."

Nondis Lowther, of Rifle, said the Silver Bullet is a tournament worth traveling for, as she has competed in almost every yearly edition of the tournament.

"The course is player friendly for women," Lowther said. "The holes are designed so we can reach the green in regulation, and there is just a lot of variety with sand and water challenges as well as big trees."

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The golfers are divided into flights by their handicaps, and prize money will be awarded to the top four in each flight in both gross and net scores.

The top golfer in each flight will win $300.

Lowther said the competition level is tough, but her goal is to win the first flight.

"There are ladies here from Denver who have a one or two handicap," she said. "I want to win my flight, but I want to have fun as well."

Back said the tournament still has many women traveling from the Denver area because the tournament is two days.

"There are starting to be more ladies tournaments around the whole state, but when they first started they were only one day," he said. "Men always had at least two-day tournaments, and we have the three-day Cottonwood Classic, so I think the ladies really enjoy being able to come out here for two days and play some good golf."

April Branstetter, of Hayden, said she has a club membership at the golf course and comes regularly.

"It is wonderful to have a tournament so close to home," she said. "There are great people running the event and great people who come every year to play providing a lot of camaraderie among the women."

Branstetter said her goal isn't just to win, but better her game.

"I want to play my game and play against myself," she said. "If I can better my score, I will be happy."

Mother Nature's water hazards

Due to higher than usual water levels in the Yampa River this summer, the golf course was forced to close the front nine for 18 days starting June 6.

Water damage, Back said, made the holes unplayable.

"We only had nine holes open for those 18 days, and some people thought the whole course was flooded," he said. "I'm not sure how many rounds we lost, but a majority were lost because people just didn't come out. When they did, they saw we had nine (holes) open."

Because the course only had nine holes open, Back said all players, including out-of-town players, were charged local rates.

Another problem that affected the number of rounds played came when people played 18 holes.

"When people wanted to play 18 on nine holes, we had to set turn times for them to get back on," Back said. "If we did that 10 times, that means we lost 10 more tee times for other players. We could only get so many players on in one day."

Back, however, said the damage could have been worse if the course would have taken on more than just ground water from the river.

With the rain subsiding for the weekend, Back said the grounds crew can start repairing the damaged areas.

"The course is all dried up, we just have to deal with the aftermath," he said. "Once the rain stopped, the grounds crew started re-seeding the areas that held water."

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If you go…

What: 25th annual Silver Bullet Classic

When: 8 a.m. today and Sunday

Where: Yampa Valley Golf Course, 2179 Colorado Highway 394

— Registration is closed.