John F. Russell: Left, not forgotten

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Each year golf is ushered back into the valley with the opening of the Steamboat Golf Club west of Steamboat Springs.

Each year, I head out to the course and watch residents filled with the joy of returning to the game they have had to put on hold for the winter.

Usually, I end up leaving the course wondering whether this will be the year. The year, I finally go out to the shed behind my house, dig behind the Christmas decorations, baby clothes and toys to pull out my clubs -- which now qualify as collector's items in some golfing circles and might be worth a few dollars on the antique road show.

The woods are made of wood and irons -- well let's just say they were made in a time when the only shafts made out of graphite were pencils.

Although I grew up playing golf in suburban Denver, the days when I could run out to the course and play 18 holes have passed me by.

I wish I could say the game just got too expensive. But the one thing I never seemed to have enough of was time.

After high school, college and then work seemed to consume my time. I discovered mountain bikes, cars and girls. The clubs sat in my parent's garage, and my Sundays were not spent on the golf course.

I brought my clubs with me when I moved to Steamboat Springs after college. But I have picked up my clubs only a few times.

Unless my son, daughter or wife suddenly develops an interest in the game, I have a better chance of rolling a 300 at the Snow Bowl than teeing off at Haymaker.

Still, when the words "garage sale" are brought up in the Russell home, I get a little defensive about the clubs that sit in the shed behind my house, behind the Christmas decorations, baby clothes and toys.

My wife is always quick to remind me that I haven't played a round of golf in several years when we start collecting items to sell off. Then I politely remind her that there are dozens of boxes of baby clothes in the shed.

It's sad that after 12 years of marriage, and more than seven as a father, I still haven't learned not to go down that road.

But like so many other aging athletes, I keep my passion for sports stored in a place where it can be retrieved. For me, it's golf clubs, but for others, it might be a fishing pole, a bike or some other sporting item that has been exiled temporarily.

The clubs represent a chance to rekindle those Sunday afternoons on the fairway with my father, or the way I used to trek through the early morning dew with my friends after teeing off at our neighborhood golf course.

Maybe that's why I can't help but wonder whether this will be the year I discover the game I left behind.

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