John F. Russell: Golfers hit the road to fill hunger for the game they love

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— The birds are back, the sun is staying up later in the evening and the snow quickly is disappearing from the Yampa Valley landscape.

For most of us, that means it’s time to get the most out of our ski passes in the final weeks of the season, but for a dedicated group of athletes, it's time to shift gears, or should I say, it’s time to swing into spring.

“Absolutely,” Mary Effinger said when asked if she’s got a case of the golfing bug. “I’m always looking forward to another golfing season.”

That season unofficially opened Friday, when Yampa Valley Golf Course in Craig opened its fairways and greens for another season. Golfers can play the course for $20 through Sunday (walking only). On Monday, that price jumps to $30 for 9 holes and $42 for 18 for nonresidents.

Golf, it would seem, is one of those addictive games that makes us all want to rush away from the cold of winter into a warmer time filled with visions of lush green fairways and the feel of walking across a smooth rolling green.

The start of the golf season in the shadow of Mount Werner is too far away for most golfers, but that doesn’t stop diehards like Effinger from making the trip to Craig, Grand Junction or other places where the golfing season is a bit longer.

“We just got back from three days in St. George, Utah,” Effinger said. “It was cold and miserable there.”

But she didn't seem to care. The trip gave her the chance to play the game she loves.

I’ve often wondered what it is about golf that turns an otherwise normal person into an obsessed golfing fanatic. What would make a person jump in a car and drive instead of just waiting for the season to arrive? I wonder the same thing about those folks who drive to Summit County in the fall to ski.

The argument could be made that the game of golf is like some addictive drug. Once players get a taste for the game, it seems to consume them. Ability and age matter little in this obsession — the passion for the game doesn’t seem to discriminate.

Most players are driven by the chance to get better. One day, they want to break 100, and then it’s 90, and before you know it, they are thinking about shooting in the low 80s or even 70s.

But it’s also a cruel game full of pit holes, challenges and bad habits. One day, a golfer might be on top of the world mistakenly thinking that the game has been mastered, but the next day, the game seems to have slipped out of the player's grasp. Sure, it’s frustrating, but that only seems to fuel most golfers’ obsession for the game.

I grew up playing the game, but I was lucky enough to escape its grasp because money and time were in short supply after college. My passion for the game slowly faded, but I can admit that I still miss it, and I understand the drive many golfers feel this time of year to get back on the course.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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