Lessons from the links
Ann Marie Roberts reflects on game's importance in her life
At the age of 10, Ann Marie Roberts was in a car with her mother and seven other children headed to Steamboat Springs.
They weren’t hitting the slopes or jumping in the river.
The group was headed down the valley to compete in a junior golf tournament.
“My older brother and my parents all played (golf) while I was growing up,” Roberts said. “It is something I have done my whole life.”
Thirty years later, Roberts is using her lifetime knowledge of golf to coach the Moffat County High School girls golf team.
While she was born and raised in Craig, the game of golf has taken Roberts across the country and back.
“After I graduated high school, I attended Doane College in Nebraska,” she said. “I went there to study elementary education.”
During her first year, Roberts competed on the boys golf team because there was no team for girls.
That changed in 1990, Roberts’ sophomore year, as she and the boys head coach started the college’s first girls golf team.
“It was a real cool experience,” Roberts said. “We had to go out and recruit three other girls who would play.
“There weren’t many women who wanted to play, so it was great to be part of starting that team up.”
Competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics regional golf tournament, Roberts led her four-player team to a regional championship.
“While the other teams had five players, we only had four, and we were able to win,” Roberts said. “We had champagne to celebrate, it was really exciting.
“It was the first time in my (athletic) career I won as an individual and as a team.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Roberts said she stuck around Lincoln to work on her master’s degree.
In that time, she was able to get a job on the local golf course giving lessons.
While working on the golf course, Roberts said she looked for jobs as a golf pro across the country. She eventually landed in Wilbraham, Mass.
“It was scary to move, but I was so young and had no ties,” Roberts said. “I talked to my dad and we decided if I was going to do it, I had to do it then, so I went for it.”
The move from education to golf pro made sense, Roberts said, as it was a game she loved.
“While golfing, you are by yourself and nothing is ever the same when you play,” she said. “You are out there and you are playing the course, not people.”
While she no longer competes in golf tournaments, Roberts said she was able to enjoy a great golf experience while in Massachusetts — playing in a Ladies Professional Golf Association tour event.
In 1996, she worked on getting local sponsorships so she could compete, and when she did, her father came out to caddy for her.
“When they call your name to tee off, you just hope you can hit the ball,” Roberts said. “The atmosphere was very intense.”
After making it through the first-day cut, Roberts didn’t survive the second day, but said she had enjoyed the experience.
“It was fun to be inside the ropes and in front of the cameras,” Roberts said. “I wish I would have played more to the crowd since everyone in the area knew me.”
Although Roberts enjoyed her playing days, she said she preferred teaching.
And while she liked her time in the East, Roberts said she missed her home and the country setting.
“(In Colorado) you can see forever when you look out, while in the East there are trees,” she said. “It was so enclosed and you can’t really escape the city.
“I couldn’t do the things in the winter or even the summer that I can (in Colorado).”
But an even bigger reason to come home, Roberts said, was her family.
“I got to the point where I felt I was missing things with my folks and my family,” she said. “I would come visit and I would go out with my folks and I knew I was missing being here.”
While back East, Roberts said she applied for a golf pro position in Rifle, but was told the course wasn’t ready for a woman yet.
“I feel that a lot of players think the PGA is better than the LPGA,” she said. “Golfers still have that mentality a little bit that men are better golfers than women.”
So, in 2004, Roberts moved back to Craig and took the head coaching position of the Moffat County High School girls golf team and became the assistant golf pro at Yampa Valley Golf Course.
As head coach, Roberts said she has changed the routine of the girls’ practice quite a bit, focusing on course management and swings.
“My first year, I took one girl to state and another girl just missed out by two strokes,” she said. “I feel I helped them adjust their game quite a bit.”
In 2010, Roberts coached the first MCHS girls golf team to a regional championship and a place in the state tournament.
Nike Cleverly, an MCHS senior, has played for Roberts for two seasons, including the 2010 regional championship team, and in the spring, will start her third season under
Cleverly said having a woman golf coach for the girls team has helped getting over the hardest aspect of golf for her – the mental aspect.
“Personally, golf is a very mental game for me and the way girls handle that is different than guys,” she said. “Ann Marie helps all of us with that, and I think having her as the coach is a big deal.”
On the course, Cleverly said it is clear Roberts has been playing golf all her life.
“(Roberts) definitely has a hands on way of coaching the team,” she said. “She demonstrates what we are supposed to do and then usually takes the first shot to show us.
“She is so precise in all she does, you have to know she understands the game.”
While at Yampa Valley Golf Course in 2005, Roberts met her husband, Pat.
“My husband and I like to play golf together, which is great,” Roberts said. “He is a big supporter of me coaching and of the kids on my team.
“He is my biggest fan.”
In her time as assistant golf pro, Roberts said her elementary education degree came into play.
“Because I was going to become a teacher, I think I had a love for kids, so I loved to teach them golf,” she said. “It is fun to teach people who want to learn it. It is the most satisfying thing.”
Although she is no longer the assistant golf pro, Roberts said she hopes to continue teaching junior golf lessons.
In April 2010, Roberts and her husband opened up the Double Barrel Steakhouse in Hayden.
As golf was her dream, Roberts said opening a restaurant is Pat’s and she’s happy to help him pursue it.
“My husband has been a cook and a chef his whole life,” she said. “Opening his own (restaurant) was his dream, and now I am his biggest fan.”
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Seven miles along the side of Highway 318 as it passes through Sand Wash Basin will shortly be the location for a new fence.