44th annual Cottonwood Classic begins play Friday in Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

44th annual Cottonwood Classic begins play Friday in Craig

Joshua Gordon

Darrel Irvin, of Craig, watches his putt Friday during the 44th annual Cottonwood Classic golf tournament at Yampa Valley Golf Course. More than 130 players began the three-day tournament Friday. The event concludes Sunday.

Deems Utzinger walked Friday onto Yampa Valley Golf Course for the 44th annual Cottonwood Classic golf tournament.

Utzinger, a Craig resident, stood on the first hole tee box at 8 a.m., a place he had stood 44 times previously for the same tournament.

"I was around when the golf course was first built and I worked the first five summers here on this course," he said. "I have never missed a Cottonwood Classic."

Utzinger, 64, was joined by 131 other players from across the state, and a few from out of state, to participate in the three-day amateur tournament.

The tournament will continue at 7:30 a.m. today and Sunday.

The players were split into seven flights and a championship flight depending on handicap.

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Utzinger, who is playing from the fourth flight with a handicap index of 13.9, said the tournament started small and grew to as many as 200 players, but has always remained a staple of Craig.

"This is the biggest tournament of the year," he said walking down the 10th hole fairway. "The Cottonwood is tradition and there is good prize money and good people who play."

The tournament received $24,075 in sponsorships, as well as $150 per registered player, course professional Jason Back said.

The prize amounts had not been set as of Friday, but Back said the amounts are based on money the event brought in.

Of the 132 players playing, 54 were from Craig or Hayden.

"It was really exciting to have so many locals involved this year," he said. "The economy is down and the total number is down, but we have more locals than we have had in a while."

Craig resident Darrel Irvin, who is also playing in the fourth flight, said he has played in the tournament for more than 30 years because of the competition level.

"We compete with the people in our flight, and that makes it an even playing field," he said. "The Cottonwood has to be one of the highest-rated tournaments on the Western Slope because we get people from all over for a three-day tournament.

"It's a nice break from the office, as well."

John Svoboda, of Craig, won the fifth flight last year and hopes to win it again this year.

To do so, Svoboda said, he expects to have to shoot an average of 84 over the three days.

"I like competing is this tournament because it is challenging," he said Friday. "I need to work on my chipping and putting and have some work to do over the next two days, but I am still in it."

Back said the length of the tournament might have been a cause for lower numbers this year.

"People have to take time off work, and for some they have to travel a distance," he said. "For some of the older people, three days is a long tournament, and for the younger players they may have family stuff to do for the holiday weekend."

Bob Hensley, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, traveled more than 1,000 miles to compete this weekend. But, for the former Craig resident, the trip is well worth it to see old friends.

"I used to be a basketball coach here in the 1970s, so a lot of my old buddies still live around here," he said. "This is a great tournament for amateurs because amateurs usually have a bad day. Plus, I get to play with my friends and just have fun outside."

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Cottonwood Classic Leader board

Leader board for the 44th annual Cottonwood Classic as of Friday:

Championship flight:

(Name — gross score)

  1. Keith Humerichouse — 69

T2. Randy Rouse — 71

T2. Jeb Savage — 71

T4. Jared Bickling — 72

T4. Doug Jones — 72

T6. Lowell Pearson — 74

T6. Frank Wilkinson — 74

T8. Joe Elliott — 75

T8. Scott Ptach — 75

First flight:

  1. Sean Smith — 76

T2. Daniel Brown — 77

T2. Richard Padon — 77

T4. Scott Berry ­— 79

T4. Jon Burnett — 79

  1. Shawn Cooney — 80

T7. Chad Anson — 81

T7. Mark Fischer — 81

T7. Lou Hahn — 81

Second flight:

  1. Rodney Branstetter — 75

  2. Ronald Cromie — 76

  3. Rick Nelson — 80

T4. Greg Hamilton — 82

T4. Pete Heuer — 82

T4. Eric Pollock — 82

  1. Austin Zimmerman — 84

T8. Rocky Pollock — 85

T8. Robert Steinberg — 85

Third flight:

  1. Earl Cherry — 76

  2. Jim Rieder — 79

  3. Danny Adams — 80

  4. Scott Woog — 81

T5. Travis Brown — 82

T5. Dave Vanwagner — 82

  1. Barry Alford — 83

  2. Dennis Bennett — 84

Fourth flight:

  1. Wayne Rickaby — 82

  2. Gary Anderson — 83

T3. Bob Hensley — 85

T3. Grant Johns — 85

T3. Mike Kuberry — 85

T6. Darrel Irvin — 86

T6. Deems Utzinger — 86

T6. Brett Sperl — 86

Fifth flight:

T1. Fred Bishop — 82

T1. Dan Moore — 82

  1. Jeff Kroll — 85

T4. Robert Gordon — 87

T4. James Anthony Noble — 87

T4. John Svoboda — 87

  1. Ron Nadon — 88

  2. Jeff Nelson — 89

Sixth flight:

  1. Tom Kelly — 83

  2. Sammy Marquez — 89

  3. Ed Leech — 90

T4. Kyle Revelle — 91

T4. Adam Hawkins — 91

  1. Dave Dremel — 92

  2. Dwayne Powell — 94

  3. Tony Aragon — 95

Seventh flight:

  1. Jack Giessinger — 89

  2. Phil Gallagher — 92

  3. Darrell Sparks — 94

T4. Craig Madsen — 95

T4. Jeff Richards — 95

T4. Travis Selan — 95

  1. Don Smith — 97

  2. Bill Lee — 98