Tournament's popularity grows

Ski Town USA Golf Classic fills to capacity

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— One of Steamboat's best-kept secrets is out.

For the past four years the Ski Town USA Golf Classic has drawn a good-sized crown to play 36 holes over two days, but has never filled to capacity.

Last year the tournament drew 180 golfers to the courses and auction, helping to raise $130,000, which benefited a number of different causes. This year's event will also benefit several groups, including the Doak Walker Care Center, GrandKids Childcare Center, The Steamboat Rotary Club's commitment to the enrichment of youth and senior programs and the Doak Walker Memorial Endowment Fund Scholarship.

But if you were hoping to register for the event at the last minute this year you're out of luck.

That's because a record 224 golfers have discovered the Ski Town USA Golf Classic and signed up to play in the two-day affair which will be held Aug. 2-3 at the Sheraton Steamboat and Catamount Golf Clubs. The organizers have also lined up several new corporate sponsors and the event is on track to break last year's fund-raising numbers.

Mignon Huizenga, the tournament and benefit auction chairperson, said the tournament's new major sponsor, Pepsi/Aquafina, played a big role in helping the tournament's base increase this summer.

"This tournament was filled nearly a month before we expected," Huizenga said. "It's the first time that we have ever been sold out."

Huizenga said part of that had to do with lining up Pepsi/Aquafina, as well as other corporate sponsors like workfromhome.com and the Coors Brewing Company.

"That really opened the door for us and helped us raise the bar," Huizenga said.

This year the players will come from places like Texas, California, Florida, New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Huizenga also credited two different marketing strategies for boosting the number of golfers this year.

Several months prior to the event, organizers sent out Save The Date Cards, which is like a postcard tickler that helped keep the tournament fresh in people's minds. Huizenga also said she got a good response from posting the event on this year's Steamboat Springs Chamber and Resort Association Web site.

But she said the main reason the tournament has grown over the years has more to do with it's reputation than it does with marketing.

"Our biggest asset has been word of mouth," Huizenga said. This tournament is just a lot of fun and people are starting to tell their friends and co-workers about it."

The field will be split into two groups. One group will play at the Sheraton on Friday while the other takes a shot at Catamount. Both groups will begin with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. On Saturday the two groups will swap courses for the final day of the event. The format will be a four-person, 1-2-3, net best ball.

Huizenga said the field of players would be made up of CEOs from major companies, former athletes and charitable locals who want to help support area non-profits.

"The Dream Team and Rotary are responsible for the success of this tournament," Huizenga said. "Without those groups this event would not be possible."

Gary Crawford, the head professional at the Sheraton, said organizers have taken this tournament to new levels over the past year, and it's something that the Sheraton is always happy to host.

"They have gone above and beyond the call," Crawford said of the Dream Team and Rotary. "This tournament has great sponsorship, wonderful prizes and a huge number of golfers."

For the first time this year Catamount will also host the event. Jim Miller, the director of golf and club operations, said this event is a chance for the private course east of town to be a part of the community.

"It's a real honor for us to participate, " Miller said. " It's a great chance to give back to the community and we are excited to do it."

The tournament will open with a cocktail party Thursday evening. In addition to great golf the event will also host silent and live auctions Friday night.

A few of the items up for bid are a cruise on a 122-foot yacht in the Caribbean, which is valued at $50,000. There will also be scooters, sports memorabilia (including a Patrick Roy jersey and a painting of Wayne Gretzsky) and a trip to the Super Bowl. In all, more than 300 items will be up for auction at the event.

To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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