When longtime golf professional Gary Crawford sat down to write his letter of resignation last February he knew it was going to be a difficult task.
For the past nine years, he has watched over the Sheraton Steamboat Resort & Golf Club's fairways, greens and breathtaking scenery as the course's head professional. He has been at the club for 17 years.
In that time, he has forged a lot of lasting friendships with his staff and the club's members and has become as much a part of the course as the rolling waters of Fish Creek.
"It's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," Crawford said. "But after 17 years, I decided the time was right."
Crawford, who was a member of the U.S. Ski Team's Nordic combined squad from 1976 to 1988 and competed in a pair of Olympic Games during the 1980s, said he rarely had picked up a golf club before being hired by former Sheraton pro Hank Franks for a part-time job back in 1987.
Since then, Crawford has worked his way up the ladder and learned every aspect of the golfing business. He earned his Class A Professional card in 1993 after attending the required classes and passing his players test.
"I think I had played half a dozen times in my life before being hired by Hank," Crawford said. "When I was younger I was totally focused on skiing, but after getting the job at the Sheraton, I fell in love with golf."
Franks said he expects to see a little more of Crawford on the course playing this summer but said his longtime friend is going to be missed in the local golfing community.
"I hope he stays involved with golf at some level here in Steamboat. He has been good for our industry and good for the game," Franks said. "He was one of those guys you could call on the telephone and he was always willing to help out. I don't think the word 'no' is in his vocabulary."
Crawford, 46, said his decision to leave the Sheraton was based on several factors, but in the end it came down to his desire to pursue professional golf at a different level.
"As a club pro, I never had the opportunity to work on my own golf game," Crawford said. "I've always wondered how far I could go with my own golf game. Unless I try it now, I will never know."
Crawford said he plans to spend a lot of time playing golf this summer and enter several tournaments, including the Colorado and Wyoming opens to see if he has the skills to be a touring professional.
"We are really sorry to see Gary go," said Chuck Porter, general manager for the Sheraton Steamboat Resort and Conference Center. "He had become a real personality at the course and was very popular with the staff."
Porter and Crawford said the parting was amicable and that Crawford would help with the transition this spring.
Porter said the Sheraton is in the process of hiring a new pro, which most likely will come from the Troon organization that took over the operation of the course in June of 2002.
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