Steamboat Springs It was social hour at the Hole 11 tee box.
Shortly before noon, a group of girls waited their turn, spending the downtime snacking, talking and cheering one another on.
So much for golf being a quiet, serious sport.
The Haywhacker Champ-
ionship began Wednesday with first-round play at the Haymaker Golf Course, a challenging links-style course made more difficult with the wind.
"I've never played here before," Craig's Amber Nicholson said. "It's a lot tougher than I expected."
Easing Nicholson's Hay-
maker debut were playing partners Brittany Skinner of Boulder and Courtney Fieldman of Greenwood Village.
The threesome played fast and complimented each other on drives, iron shots and putts.
The relaxed atmosphere made the golfing easier, Skinner said.
The 18-year-old recently graduated from Boulder High School, where she played high school golf, but is a newcomer to Colorado Junior Golf Association events.
"It's my first and last year of junior golf," Skinner said.
But the sport is one Skinner sees herself playing "when I'm 65.
"I played a lot of sports -- volleyball, basketball -- but in golf, you find a challenge in it," she said. "It's you playing against yourself."
Consequently, Skinner has -- and this is a concept many golfers struggle to grasp -- let bad shots go. She said getting angry and emotional only makes her game worse. Playing each shot as its own is something she helps teach young golfers at the Flatirons Golf Course.
"Two years later, you see them, and they are playing better than you are," she said, laughing.
Smiling, laughing and shrugging heads was all most golfers could do in Wednesday's conditions. Wind blowing across the course brought the water hazards on holes 10 and 11 into play.
Steamboat Springs golfer Tucker Campbell, whose threesome joined the Hole 11 social hour, said he was trying to provide as many pointers as he could.
"But it's hard today," he said.
Haymaker head pro Hank Franks said preparing the Steamboat Springs course for state play doesn't differ from everyday operations.
"We try to make the golf course fair," he said. "The traditional setup is six relatively simple, six medium and six difficult (pin placements). You try to have a blend. We don't subscribe to setting the course as hard as we can. We want the kids to come out and have fun."
The pin placements will change before today's final round, which begins at 7 a.m. The 14- to 18-year-old boys and girls will golf 18 holes, and the 11 to 13-year-old players will golf nine.
The course will be closed to public use until about 2 p.m., and tee times should be reserved.
The driving range will be open as usual.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org