Clear skies, green fairway |

Clear skies, green fairway

First day of Cottonwood Classic typifies tournament

Anyone who has an appreciation of Northwest Colorado’s landscape would have been in awe during Friday’s first round of the Yampa Valley Golf Course’s Cottonwood Classic.

The day boasted clear blue skies, a deep green fairway and a cool breeze that kept the 90-degree temperatures bearable.

And ironically, white, fluffy cottonwood seeds floated across the course as bright golf balls whistled through the sky.

On the 13th tee, box golfers commented often about how high the Yampa River was this year compared with the past several years.

“It’s setting records,” said one golfer.

“All of the reservoirs are full,” said another.

The high river told the tale of a wet spring and early summer, conditions that have created a lush, green fairway.

“Chuck (Cobb) said Mother Nature has been nice to the course,” said Ed Leech of Grand Junction. “(The conditions are) some of the best since I’ve been here.”

And Leech has been here for some time. He played in his first Cottonwood Classic in 1970, and he has missed only one because “my son was married on July 4, and that messed things up for me.”

Leech was sitting in the shade of his camper, reading a book after finishing his round Friday. He was one of the first to tee off at 7 a.m. Friday. Today, he’ll tee off at 7:40 a.m.

Around the corner from Leech, Ron Nadon of New Castle, Red Woolley of Glenwood Springs and Fred Frei of New Castle were having a friendly chipping contest at a practice green.

They had finished their round earlier in the day.

“We’re waiting for our buddies, who are much better golfers than us,” Nadon said. “We’re the high-handicap group.”

Nadon said he keeps coming back to the Cottonwood partly because it’s a good value.

“Four days of golf and a steak dinner is a nice weekend,” he said. “It’s just a great little tournament.”

Woolley agreed.

“All the golf you get for the price, holy smokes, that’s a good deal,” he said.

Scott Stephens of Wilming–ton, N.C., traveled the farthest for the tournament.

The first tournament in 1968 also drew out-of-state golfers.

An article in The Empire-Courier, provided by golf course professional Chuck Cobb, stated that golfers came from Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota.

The tournament, originally named the Yampa Valley Open, was organized as a part of the dedication of the course. Deems Utzinger is listed in the article as finishing 11th in the net results. Utzinger has participated in every tournament since.

Doug Deyo, who won a golf bag in that first tournament, tees off in one of the first groups today.

As groups came in Friday, discussion was about how nice the first round had been.

Leech seemed to sum up the majority of the field’s thoughts about the Cottonwood Classic.

“The people here are awfully nice,” he said. “It’s a nice tournament with a lot of good camaraderie.”

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