Craig man visits Augusta National, pays tribute to late father |

Craig man visits Augusta National, pays tribute to late father

Joshua Gordon

Craig resident Brett Etzler is shown here Monday near the 15th hole at Augusta National in Georgia. Etzler and his fiancée, Stephanie Perez, attended the practice session for the 75th Masters Tournament, which began Thursday and concludes Sunday.

Brett Etzler sits near "Amen Corner," between the 11th and 12th holes, on April 4 at Augusta National while holding a hole-in-one ball his father hit. Bevan Etzler died in August, prompting Brett to take his father's ball and throw it into the pond on the 15th hole at Augusta National.Brett Etzler, left, and Stephanie Perez stand in front of the azaleas on the second hole Monday at Augusta National. Etzler said he has been to more than 30 rounds of the Masters and wanted to show Perez, his fiancée, the "beauty" of the course.

Brett Etzler wanted his late father — the man who taught him to play golf — to be part of the game forever.

On Monday, he made that happen.

He paid tribute to the late Bevan Etzler, who died in August, by tossing a golf ball his father used on a hole-in-one and signed by all his sons into the pond on the 15th hole at Augusta National, home of the Masters.

Bevan taught Brett, a former golf professional at Yampa Valley Golf Course and now the owner of Carelli's Pizzeria & Pasta, how to play the game.

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"My dad was an avid golfer his whole life," Brett said. "He taught me something I made a career of for 15 years."

Brett, 40, honored his father at the world-class course this week and also watched player practice rounds. The 75th annual tournament began Thursday and concludes Sunday.

Brett said he wanted to see players practice one more time before his PGA membership, which allows him free admission to the event, expires.

Brett and his fiancée, Stephanie Perez, flew Sunday into Atlanta, Ga., and drove two hours to the course. They returned Tuesday to Craig, before official tournament play began.

"In my opinion, Augusta is the most spectacular golf course in the world," he said. "Stephanie hadn't been there before and I wanted to show it to her."

This wasn't Brett's first time at Augusta National.

Before moving to Colorado, he was a golf professional at a course near Augusta National for eight years and he has seen more than 30 rounds of the Masters in person.

"Every year, I tried to get out to the course about two or three times during the tournament," Brett said. "Every time I went it was a very enjoyable experience."

Not only has he been a spectator, Brett said he has also been fortunate enough to play at Augusta National three times.

"A couple of guys who were members at the golf course I was a pro at were also members at Augusta, so they took me along," he said. "It is the hardest course to get on in the country and the rounds I played were some of the best golfing experiences of my life."

Brett said of all the courses he has played on, Augusta National comes in at number one, just above Pebble Beach in California.

The visit this week, Brett said, was to walk the course and take in the "beauty" of it.

"We started on the first hole and made our way around," he said. "We made stops, like at the 16th hole to watch the golfers skip their balls across the pond, and saw some of the best golfers in the world.

"The history and tradition that Augusta has isn't rivaled by any other course in this country."

Among the golfers he watched practice were Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open winner; Jim Furyk, 2010 PGA Tour Player of the Year; and Martin Kaymer, the number one ranked golfer in the world, according to the Official World Golf Rankings.

"It is amazing to see PGA players because they make the game seem so easy and effortless," Brett said. "It is a whole different ball game with them."

Unfortunately, he wasn't able to see Tiger Woods during the practice round.

When it comes to golf, Brett said it's the serenity of the game that draws him in, which is why he will give up his PGA membership to go back to amateur status.

As an amateur, he will be able to play in amateur tournaments at Yampa Valley Golf Course, a place where he was the golf pro for three years.

Although he won't be given free admission in the future, Brett said he hopes to visit Augusta National again someday.

"The game of golf relaxes me and I enjoy watching it, especially at Augusta," he said. "I will be pulling for (Phil) Mickelson this year and hopefully be there again in the future."

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