Long trip pays off for Florida golfer at Classic

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— Golfer Henery Hernandez traveled more than 2,000 miles to come to Steamboat Springs.

After scoring the first hole in one of his golfing career on the Haymaker Golf Course's No. 12 hole Friday, there was no denying the journey was worth it.

The hole-in-one came on the first day of the Ski Town USA Classic golf tournament, which is being played at the Haymaker and Sheraton Steamboat golf clubs Friday and today. The Healthcare Foundation for the Yampa Valley, The Steamboat Dream Team and the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs host the golf tournament and benefit auction, which is in its 10th year.

"This is the fourth year I've played in the tournament," Hernandez said. "It's just a lot of fun to play golf with friends. I came to Steamboat Springs just to play in this tournament."

After acing No. 12, Hernandez may need to check a few more bags at Yampa Valley Regional Airport for the return trip to Florida. Hernandez won a set of Ben Hogan irons for the shot.

Hernandez also paid $5 before hitting the shot for a contest that paid odds back on how close each golfer got to the hole. Hernandez's shot paid him 16-to-1 odds.

The Florida golfer was playing with Steamboat's Curt Weiss, John Vanderbloemen and Bob Kuusinen when he hit the shot from 145 yards. Hernandez and Weiss were part of the winning team at last year's Ski Town Classic.

"This is the best tournament of the summer in Steamboat Springs," Weiss said. "We raise a lot of money for a good cause."

The money is used to support the charitable causes of the Heathcare Foundation and the Rotary Club.

Hernandez said he has been friends with Weiss for more than 35 years. When Weiss called him several years ago and asked him to play in the tournament, Hernandez was quick to answer. He has made the trip to Steamboat a regular summer tradition.

"When I started doing this, I wanted to form a team using golfers from outside of Steamboat Springs," Weiss said.

Weiss was able to form that team, which normally plays in the tournament together. This year, two of the team's regular members were not able to attend the tournament because of scheduling conflicts, so Vanderbloemen and Kuusinen joined.

The Ski Town USA Classic will continue today at both courses. The field of 176 golfers is roughly split between the two courses. The players at Haymaker today will move to the Sheraton, and those that played the Sheraton will move to Haymaker for the final round. There also was a benefit auction Friday night at the Sheraton Grand Ball Room.

The tournament was a modified scramble format featuring four-person teams.

- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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