Steamboat Springs The game of golf can be difficult under the best of circumstances.
But spring golf in a mountain town comes with its own long list of challenges, and topping that list is the fact that area golf courses are still under several feet of snow and will not be open for more than a month.
Despite those challenges, the Steamboat Springs High School Girls Golf team swung into action last week at the Chipeta Golf Course in Palisade, kicking off the team’s second season at the high school. The local players struggled through 38 degree temperatures in the non-traditional, scramble-format tournament, placing second in the junior varsity division.
“The kids really gutted it out,” coach Shannon Hanley said.”If it wasn’t blowing, it was snowing.”
But the bad weather has been a constant in the Sailors' first two seasons as a high school golf program. Hanley said Steamboat is not unique, adding that many Western Slope teams also have to battle inclement weather. Complaining doesn’t help, so instead, the coach has adopted a progressive approach to preparing her team to play in the spring season.
“The first year here was kind of an experiment,” she said. “Last season, we spent a lot of time figuring out what we could do here, how we would approach the season and how we would deal with the snow and the challenging weather.”
The result was a progressive mix of simulated golf, indoor training and a focus on life skills that helped the young athletes with nutrition, stretching and stress management, both on the course and off.
Hanley said the high school program is still trying to build a base, and many of the team’s players had only played recreationally with family members before joining the team. She said the response, however, has been good. If the team can begin to build a tradition, she thinks it could result in more girls playing in the summer months and coming to the team in the fall with more experience.
Eight players came out for this year’s team, including returning players such as Kellyn Stanhope, Amanda Pearlman and Sarah Heineke. The team also welcomes some new blood in players Raya Duryea, Samantha Stabile, Taylor Moore, Natasha Totman and Tyler Paoli.
Six of the team’s eight players competed in the first event, and Hanley is expecting a full squad when the team travels to Grand Junction’s Lincoln Park for a tournament March 13.
The team will have the following week off, but Hanley said players plan to travel to Denver for some work at Topgolf Centennial, a huge hitting facility off Arapahoe Road. The team will spend the following day playing a round at the Foothills Golf Course, an executive course in the Denver Metro area.
Other tournaments include events in Grand Junction on April 3, Chipeta on April 13 and Rifle Creek on April 18. Steamboat will wrap up the season May 1 and May 10 at the Yampa Valley Golf Course in Craig.
Hanley said she has been thrilled with the outpouring of support the team has received during its first two years, and she hopes that widespread interest will help her build enthusiasm for the team early on. She said she would love to see more young women playing in the summer junior programs and the introduction of golf at the middle-school level.
Until then, she said, the girls on her team will continue to look for new and progressive ways to prepare for and fine-tune their game during the seasons.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966