Tournament doubles as fun, charity

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Every summer, golfers gather at the Sheraton Steamboat and Catamount Ranch & Club golf courses in the name of fun and charity. They hit some balls, win some prizes and later, with others, bid on sports memorabilia and tropical getaways.

As a result, fledging nurses attend school, boardwalks get built and organizations pursue community projects that otherwise might not happen.

In the past seven years, the Ski Town USA Golf Classic and Benefit Auction has raised more than $750,000 for the Steamboat Springs Rotary Club, the Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley and their beneficiaries.

Organizers and participants will add to that success with the eighth annual golf tournament and auction July 8 and 9.

"It's a very popular event," said John Centner, Rotary chairman of the golf tournament. "We have people flying in from all over the country to participate."

The golf tournament and evening auction are a joint effort of the Rotary Club and Steamboat Dream Team, an organization dedicated to raising money for Yampa Valley Medical Center.

One of the reasons the Ski Town USA Golf Classic is so popular -- and what helps set it apart from other tournaments -- is the opportunity to play at two premier golf courses in Steamboat Springs, said tournament veteran Kurt Weiss, who helped orchestrate the first event.

Two hundred golfers will be split between the courses on Friday and then will switch courses Saturday. The tournament, organized in a four-person, 1-2-3 Net Best Ball format, will begin with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. each day.

On-course contests and games include hole-in-one prizes from Steamboat Motors, First National Bank of Steamboat Springs and Cook Chevrolet. Prizes also will be awarded for longest drive, longest putt and other golfing feats.

Golfers pay $450 to $475 to participate in the tournament. That includes a cocktail party and tickets to the benefit auction being held at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Priest Creek Ballroom at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel.

Jim Swiggart will be the auctioneer. Tickets for non-golfers are $45 and will be available at the door.

Sponsors and residents have donated more than $100,000 in auction items, including trips to the 2006 Olympics in Italy, the Super Bowl, Bahamas, Cozumel and Beverly Hills. Other items include jewelry, artwork, spa treatments, adventure getaways and John Elway autographed memorabilia.

More than 80 volunteers with the Rotary Club, Dream Team, hospital and Healthcare Foundation work to make the events happen.

"I really don't think either one of us could do it without the others' camaraderie and work," Centner said. "It wouldn't be pulled off in the classy way that it is."

The golf tournament and auction are the biggest fund-raiser for the Healthcare Foundation, which helps fund equipment, programs and other unbudgeted needs at the hospital.

The foundation also dedicates money to nursing scholarships and community organizations including the Visiting Nurse Association, Independent Life Center in Craig and the Humble Ranch.

The Rotary Club chooses a specific project or beneficiary for the golf tournament and auction funds. Last year, the money went to the Rotary River Boardwalk.

Sponsorship opportunities and spots in the golf tournament are available. For more information, call the Healthcare Foundation at 871-0700.

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