A familiar face returns for the Cottonwood Classic | CraigDailyPress.com

A familiar face returns for the Cottonwood Classic

David Pressgrove / Craig Press
From left, golfers Doug Toole, George Angelo, Darrel Irvin, Deems Utzinger, Greg Hamilton and Larry Seip gather between the front nine and back nine of Yampa Valley Golf Course as part of the Cottonwood Classic in 2017.
Andy Bockelman / Craig Press File

The last two years the Cottonwood Classic has been different. It has nothing to do with the course or the competition, it has to do with an absence. The Yampa Valley Golf Course’s premier tournament was without one of its mainstays; Larry Seip.

“I had to miss the last two because of physical issues,” the 83-year-old Craig resident said. “I’m excited to be out there. I think it’s something like my 51st one.”

Seip is back for the 53rd tournament and it will be a welcome sign for tournament organizers and course employees in the midst of some not-so-good news.

It’s been said that bad news travels fast and good news travels slow. Course Professional, Scott Ballif, wonders if that’s the case for this year’s Classic.

“We are down 10-15 golfers from last year,” he said. “The course is in a lot better shape than last year, but maybe last year’s conditions have kept people away.”

It’s no secret that the course had issues in 2019. Yet, this year, despite water mitigation setbacks, Ballif said that maintenance director Bryan Newkirk and his crew have worked tirelessly to get the course back to the conditions it’s known for in the region.

“We’ve had pump issues and beaver issues that have made it a challenge,” he said. “They have had to go out and hand water in order to keep up, but they have done a great job.”

Seip agreed with Ballif’s prognosis.

“It’s 100 times better than it was at this time last year,” he said. “It’s more like what we’ve come to expect.”

Several other factors could also play into 65 golfers registered as of Tuesday morning (registration closed Tuesday night), compared to 79 in 2019. Before that, the tournament has averaged more than 100 over its history.

For starters COVID-19 has kept some people home. The course was one of the first options for people to get out of the house for this spring and the course has made some changes. Gone are some traditional freebies provided by the course – ball washers and water coolers. Additionally, single-rider carts are offered for tournament entrants and the typical buffet-style meals will now be plated. Yet, some would-be golfers are choosing to take some time off during the safer-at-home orders. 

The triple whammy is that the Rifle Creek Golf Course also planned a two-man tournament for the same weekend. The Cottonwood typically sees a strong turnout from the Western Slope I-70 corridor and an event closer to home kept somewhere around 20 golfers south, according to Ballif.

The lower turnout does not mean that there will not be golfers from all over. Ballif said there are competitors coming in from Utah, Arizona and Washington state. He said that he expected 70-80% of the field to be from outside Craig. 

The golfers will tee off at 10 a.m. on Friday for the three-day event. Ballif said that he expected four flights to make up the tournament with awards happening around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

And as expected for 51 of the 53 tournaments, Seip will be out taking swings.

“Should be a good time with the boys as always,” he said.  

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