Golfing youngsters tee off

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This week, John Vande Velde learned the one thing every golfer knows but has a hard time accepting: some days at the course are better than others.

Wednesday, Vande Velde, 9, had one of his better days, winning his age division in the Cowboy Shootout tournament at the Steamboat Golf Club. He shot a 23 on the five-hole course set up for the 9-and-under golfers.

"I thought I was going to get second because the day before, when we were at Haymaker practicing, I wasn't doing so good," he said.

The tournament organizers arranged for the children to tee off near the 150-yard marker on each hole.

"My best part at the tournament was when I got a three on one of the holes," he said. "I used my driver to get a few feet from the green, and then I used my pitching wedge. I think I was about 11 feet out and made my putt."

Wednesday typically is reserved for the men's club, but instead of play, the members volunteered to help out at the tournament.

"They gave up their time for the kids," Steamboat Golf Club manager Scott Mathews said. "We feel it's a great opportunity for kids to get out here and have fun and learn what the competition is all about."

While Vande Velde played in his third tournament ever Wednesday, the Cowboy Shootout was at least the fifth tournament of the summer for Michael Weston. Between baseball and swimming, Weston squeezed in time for the Steamboat Golf Club's event and picked up a title in the 14 to 15 age division.

Weston, Tucker Campbell and Jake Dombrowski all shot 84, so the trio had a sudden-death playoff, which Weston won on the first hole.

"It's fun to play with local players," Weston said. "I like those tournaments the best."

Weston is set to enter his freshman year of high school and plans to try out for the Steamboat Springs golf team, he said.

The tournament field was littered with current and former Sailors players, including senior Ryan Brees who won the 16 to 18 age division in a sudden-death playoff, as well.

Brees, Tucker Smalley, Scott Peterson and Eric Vanderbloemen all shot rounds of 78 through the first 18 holes to force a playoff. It took four playoff holes before Brees broke free to win.

"I was a nice guy and purposely made a six on the last hole so we could go to a playoff," Brees said sarcastically. "It was horrible. ... On the third playoff hole, Tuck missed a four-foot birdie putt to win it. He hit it too hard, and it lipped out. On the last hole, he went way over the green and had an impossible chip and two-putted for bogey. I two-putted for par and won."

Golf has consumed Brees' summer. He has played in 10 tournaments this summer and only had one round in the 80s, which he said he was pleased with. Practice for the high school golf team starts Aug. 9, and Brees, Smalley and Paul Berry will miss the first day of team qualifying to play in a Denver tournament.

Reid Rouse shot a nine-hole score of 43 to win the 12 to 13 age division. Skyler Martin shot a nine-hole score of 59 to win the 10 to 11 age division.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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