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Vail Golf Club director Alice Plain wins Colorado Golf Professional of the Year

Alice Plain tees off at the Vail Golf Club on a summer evening.
Courtesy photo

Alice Plain, the director of golf at the Vail Golf Club, has been selected as the 2021 Colorado PGA Golf Professional of the Year — the highest honor given annually by the Colorado PGA.

The annual honor goes to a PGA member for overall performance, including leadership, service and promotion of the game.

“I’m so excited and honored to win this award,” Plain said in a news release. “I’ve worked really hard in my career, and it’s incredibly rewarding to be recognized as Golf Professional of the Year.”

Growing up in South Bend, Indiana, Plain was exposed to golf at a young age.

“I was the last hope within the family to pick up the sport,” she said.

Her father, George Plain, intentionally introduced her and her three other siblings to lifelong sports. Though Plain admits to playing more soccer while growing up, she always came back to golf because it meant spending time with her dad. When asked who was an influential role model, she was quick to share the relationship she had with her father; he became a good friend and mentor as they spent a lot of time on the course.

Growing up as a member at South Bend Country Club, Plain remembers a conversation she had with the PGA head professional at the time, John Guyton, who echoed her dad’s philosophy of the importance of lifelong sports.

Plain said Guyton told her, “You can make a career out of this sport,” and the advice stuck.

Entering her 25th year with the Colorado Section, Plain admits that the challenges she faced while trying to play golf as a female in a male-dominated industry prepared her for her career today. She wasn’t allowed to play golf competitively in high school because it didn’t have a girls team at the time.

In college, it wasn’t until she organized a meeting with the president of Hanover College and the roster of the men’s golf team that she was allowed to play competitively.

The members of the men’s team “went to bat for me,” Plain said. “It was huge — I wasn’t alone in my fight, and they wanted me to be a part of the team. It set the stage for me. They knew I could compete, and it gave me confidence on the course and in life to know that I could compete in a man’s world.”

After two seasons with the men’s team, Plain transferred to Oklahoma State University, where she helped lead the women’s golf team to finish third in the 1989 National Championship. Following graduation, Plain moved to Colorado to embrace the true beauty of the Centennial State and all it had to offer: golf and skiing, both of which she loved dearly.

When Plain was working for Mike Steiner, the PGA head professional of Singletree Golf (now the Sonnenalp Club), a light bulb went off, and she found herself enrolling in the PGA Apprentice Program. She immediately recognized her connection to teaching during her first winter in Colorado, where she taught skiing at Vail Resorts and was quick to see how what she was doing on the snow could translate to the fairways.

The 1989 Oklahoma State women's golf team finished third at a tournament at Stanford University. From left are Shelia Dills (Lugebuel), Eva Dahlof, Marnie McGuire, coach Ann Pitts, Carolyn McKenzie and Alice Plain.

As the director of golf at Vail Golf Club, Plain wears many hats, but one of her favorite roles is the opportunity to mentor future PGA professionals.

“It helps us as an industry,” she said. “You have to challenge them, and you have to teach them. It’s important to take the time to spend with them to expose them to everything we do on and off the golf course.”

It’s clear that Plain’s leadership has made a lasting impact and impression on the club and her peers. Trey Johnson, PGA assistant professional at Vail Golf Club, can attest.

“She gives you the space and operation to make it your own, while providing guidance along the way,” he said. “She’s always great about checking in along the way.”

Nathan Mead, PGA head Professional at Vail Golf Club, reiterated that through her leadership style, Plain has created a culture that allows freedom, yet “she always has our backs — to the end, even to a fault. She supports us through and through, and you never feel alone with something or trapped in a box.”

Plain has mentored over 35 PGA Professional Golf Management interns throughout her career.

That’s something she has continued to strive for at Vail Golf Club. George Hart, PGA assistant professional, was quick to share that Plain puts all of her staff “in situations to succeed.” The culture, impact and environment she has created during her time is something she would like to be remembered for, as she sees their team, in her words, “as a family.”

“We all chip in to help each other,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what your title is, we’re in this together.”

A true testament to Plain’s leadership was how she and her fellow peers handled the pandemic. Plain stepped up without being asked and led the Eagle County Golf Council through the navigation of how golf could be played safely through uncharted waters.

“We were able to agree all together, which was huge. It was important to be on the same page through all of this, and it was even better that we had the support of the Colorado Section as well,“ she said.

Plain and four of her colleagues met with Eagle County health officials regularly to determine the safest way for golfers to enjoy the sport while continuing to stay in compliance with CDC guidelines. At one point, Plain received a phone call from health officials informing her that five members of her staff needed to be placed in a 10-day quarantine.

“Our staff didn’t skip a beat, and they never once complained,” she said. “We had four members of our staff running golf operations for 10 days, and we were completely booked for those 10 days. Our guests didn’t notice that we were so short staffed, and all I could think was how the culture we’ve created has prepared us for times like these. This is how we function.”

While some might say that 2020 wasn’t ideal with all the challenges it brought, Plain found light in the darkness that year. Seven years ago, she met a young man, Heivan Garcia, while playing hockey, as he worked at the Dobson Ice Arena in Vail through the Vail Recreation District.

“He had such a great personality, he was a soccer player — he won the 2012 state soccer tournament with Battle Mountain High School, but he had never played golf,” she said.

Alice Plain took Heivan Garcia, who played soccer, under her wing to learn golf.
Courtesy photo


So Plain took it upon herself to introduce him to the world of golf and set him up with clubs, a bag and, of course, her expertise in the game. As they became friends over the years, Plain learned that he was here on a resident card and didn’t have his citizenship.

So Plain did what she does best.

“Through working here, I met a retired attorney who was in town to play a few rounds of golf,” she said. “He was able to connect me with an immigration attorney in Denver.”

The entire process extended over the course of two years, and last September, Garcia obtained his citizenship in a swearing-in ceremony in front of the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction.

“It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life — so much so that Heivan and I want to start a nonprofit that can help others obtain their citizenship,” she said. Plain deems this as her “retirement project” and hopes to have the opportunity to help others in the valley like Garcia.

The power of golf can often be underestimated or forgotten, but PGA professionals like Plain are a reminder of how incredibly rewarding, powerful and impactful the sport and industry can be.

Plain would like to give a special thanks to all who have helped her get to where she is today. She would like to especially thank Ann Pitts, her coach at Oklahoma State, “for giving me an opportunity” to play and compete on the women’s golf team.

Is golf in Eagle County experiencing a new boom? Maybe

Golf courses like Eagle Ranch are busy places these days because the sport is outside and has a natural ability to distance people as they chase their golf balls. Rounds played spiked in 2020, so book your tee times early in 2021.
Daily file photo

There is no tactful way to put this.

COVID-19 has been a terrific thing for golf, locally and nationally.

In the past year, everyone and their brother, at least it seemed like it, found golf to be a perfect activity during a global pandemic.

While the majority of local golfers ride carts instead of walking, the striking of a golf ball eventually leads to social distancing.

Gypsum Creek, traditionally the first public course to open in Eagle County, saw rounds increase from 17,200 in 2019 to 20,100 in 2020, according to Blake Scott, the course’s director of golf. Clark’s counterpart at Eagle Ranch, Jeff Boyer, reports a similar tale. Rounds on the Arnold Palmer course in Eagle rose from roughly 22,000 to 26,000. (The Vail Daily doesn’t have numbers for Vail and EagleVail, the county’s two other public loops, but tee times were scarce at both last season, not that the author, who loves his 7-iron, was looking to golf.)

Keep in mind when looking at those figures that both Eagle and Gypsum courses were closed for late March and most of April, at least, last year. because of the initial reaction to the virus. There’s room for growth in 2021.

A quiet moment at Gypsum Creek’s ninth hole is rare. Like all golf courses in Eagle County, Gypsum Creek had an increase in play in 2020, seeing nearly 3,000 more rounds of golf.
Daily file photo

This is a terrific boost for golf, which nationally had been on the downswing since the 2008 recession. Everyone’s heard the death song of golf: It takes too long to play, is too hard, has too many rules, isn’t family-friendly, isn’t suited to the younger generation desiring instant gratification and so on. The pandemic fixed all that … for now.

But it brings up challenges for players as they plan for the season. What is tee time availability going to be like? What COVID-19 restrictions are still in effect? What are some unintended consequences of the pandemic?

COVID rules

It’s getting better, people. But there are still some guidelines:

  • When in doubt, book your tee time in advance. Both Gypsum Creek and Eagle Ranch have online booking sites and/or apps for the phone. Not only does this limit person-to-person contact, helpful in combatting COVID, but you just have a better chance of getting a time. “That is the key to your story,” Scott said. “Tee times are going to be scarce in this valley.”
  • Masks: They are still required in the pro shop, the 19th hole, in picking up food at the turn and in any generally populated era, say like the cart-loading/drop-off areas.
  • The pro shop: Gypsum Creek is still operating out of a window — it works very nicely — with its merchandise on the covered patio. Eagle Ranch’s pro shop is open, but limited in capacity. Please be patient.
  • Carts: Both Eagle Ranch and Gypsum Creek are back to two riders a cart after issuing carts to solo riders last season. If a golfer feels more comfortable riding solo, both courses will allow it, but with a surcharge. Eagle Ranch has introduced plastic dividers for players sharing a cart who want some space. “It’s basically a Velcro strap on the roof,” Boyer said. “It has about five straps to keep [the plastic] nice and tight. It takes about a minute to put in.”
  • Timing: When COVID-19 hit, courses were spreading out tee times to separate groups on the course (15 or 12 minutes between foursomes, instead of 10). Gypsum Creek is back to 10-minute intervals. Eagle Ranch decided to stick with 12-minute gaps. It will be interesting to watch how local golf courses handle tee-time spacing as pace of play is a major issue in the sport be it a foursome at Eagle Ranch, Gypsum Creek or Pebble Beach.

On the course

  • Last year was the year of, “Yeah, that putt would have not been in but for the pin,” because COVID rules didn’t allow anyone to touch the flag stick. You may now remove the flag, if so desired, but remember that the rules do still allow you to leave the stick in, and that might be a wiser policy simply out of consideration.
  • Rakes are back and water almost is. Since golfers seem to find bunkers more easily than fairways, every course removed the rakes from the sand last year, resulting often in a foot wedge to a smoother portion of the bunker (not legal, but could be justified) or a full-bodied kick of the ball out of the bunker (nope). Eagle Ranch has the rakes back in the bunkers and Gypsum Creek will have a rake in each cart, so clean up those bunkers people. (FYI, the courses are cleaning everything you can touch as a matter of standard operating procedure.)
  • Water coolers are being filled on course at Eagle Ranch and not yet at Gypsum Creek. So bring your water jugs. The beverage carts are also starting up, so that will help. Trash cans are touch-and-go, so please pretend you’re camping: Pack it in and pack it out.

And for the record, pandemic or not, bringing beer onto the golf course does not count as water.

Unintended consequences

In a world where we don’t know much about the future, golfers can probably count on crowded tee sheets for most of the summer.

Booking in advance is recommended.

“We’re busier than ever,” Scott said of Gypsum Creek. “We’ve stopped selling season passes. We are encouraging people to buy punch cards.”

Yes, season passes are selling out. Gypsum Creek, according to Scott, and EagleVail, according to its website, are sold out on season memberships for the year.

Meanwhile, Vail Golf Club, which shoots for a May opening, has already sold out its top-level pass for Vail Recreational District golfers.

This is a new phenomena, as is the equipment front. Yes, all of Eagle County seems to be golfing, but it’s the entire nation. Want the latest and greatest from Calloway, Titleist and/or TaylorMade? Good luck.

Since most of America apparently wants a new driver, putter, specialty wedge or set of irons, local golf course are having a hard time getting new clubs.

“We don’t have our demos and our rentals,” Boyer said. “They’re still trickling in one club at a time. I have [customers] still waiting. If you want to order, plan ahead.”

Tiger effect?

So if you have your clubs, a pass and/or tee times, you’re all set. The bigger question remains, “Will this last?”

The only comparable moment to now in recent golf history was Tiger Woods turning pro in 1996 and demolishing everyone during the 1997 Masters.

Woods made golf cool, opened up golf to more people, made television ratings and PGA revenues soar and spurred the building of golf courses all over the country.

No one is expecting companies to start breaking ground on new courses. In Eagle County, the land’s just too expensive for golf. Nationally, courses are closing to make room for housing. (See Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.)

But even if golf isn’t experiencing the full Tiger-effect — unlikely as Woods will not be on TV screens anytime soon — can golf get a bounce out of the pandemic? Will the newcomers of last summer continue to play and become life-long golfers, a boon for the sport, which desperately needs younger players?

While Scott is a bit younger than Boyer, Scott has a good perspective. He started at Gypsum Creek as a member of the Eagle Valley golf team (Class of 2002), turned that into a part-time job while in high school and eventually a career in Gypsum. He’s seen and done everything one can do at Gypsum Creek.

“This is my 18th year in the golf industry and I’ve seen the ups and downs,” Scott said. “I haven’t seen us up like this since the beginning of my career.”

Scott started at Gypsum Creek as a full-time employee after college in 2005, which just happened to be the year of Woods’ chip on No. 16 at the Masters.

Boyer’s been at Eagle Ranch since it opened in 2001. He was less hesitant to proclaim a new era of golf, but is looking at the trends.

“I have read some stuff about [a Tiger-like effect], but I wouldn’t be able to give you the [national] stats,” he said. “It’s definitely comparable. The increase in rounds? The last time I saw an increase of rounds close to last year was back in 1996 when Tiger turned pro.”

Eagle Ranch, Gypsum Creek courses to open


The Eagle Ranch Golf Club is opening on Monday, followed by the Gypsum Creek Golf Course on Tuesday.

And before everyone stampedes to these two locations with golf fever, please keep in mind the following rules with regard to COVID-19.

• Social distancing remains in effect. Maintain 6 feet of distance from those in your group at all times.

• To that end, golf carts will be one per person, unless golfers are from the same household.

• Do not touch the flagstick. Yes, the USGA instituted the rule last season that flag may remain in while putting. It’s not an option now. No touching the pin and both courses will be using elevated cups to avoid everyone sticking their hands in a hole to retrieve their ball.

• There will be no water stations or restrooms on the course, so stock your golf bag with water and take care of the important issues beforehand.

• On the rare instance your golf ball may end up in a bunker — we all know you’re scratch golfers, so this doesn’t happen often — there are no rakes. Play it as best you can and foot-rake the sand for the golfers behind you.

• No high-five and no shaking hands. Yes, golf has its engrained customs — introducing yourself at the beginning, handshakes at the end. Please don’t. And even in the case of a hole-in-one, resist the temptation to have high-fives. Air-fives are fine.

• No more than four people in the pro shop.

• No walkups are allowed. Make your tee times in advance.

For tee times at Eagle Ranch, go to eagleranchgolf.com or call 970-328-2882. For tee times at Gypsum Creek, go to gypsumcreekgolf.com or call 970-524-6200.

Gypsum Creek Golf Course opens front nine

We have good news.

Seriously, as Vail Resorts shuts down for a week, seemingly every form of sports is shuttered and a trip to the grocery store seems like a real-life episode of “Survivor,” we need it.

We’ve got golf, people. Gypsum Creek’s front nine is open. Happy spring, Eagle County.

We’ll stipulate right now that your sports editor is weird on many counts. Yes, he’s an opera and classical-music loving guy who doesn’t ski or snowboard, doesn’t know how to ride a bike and occasionally goes on riffs talking about himself in the third person.

He is a completely unathletic human who fell in love with sports when he was 5. He does love golf, though. (Freud, stop with the third person.)

I bought a starter set of clubs from Walmart and got a huge Rodney Dangerfield bag for $5 my first summer here in 1998. (I also tried fishing, but that just ended up with me throwing sporting goods in the Eagle River, which ironically, would occur with golf as well.)

l don’t know how it happened, but I played my first round of golf at the Willow Creek Par-3 with Dan Thomas, who was a sportswriter with the Vail Trail at the time. This was probably quite forbidden as the two newspapers had a fierce rivalry. (The good news is that Dan now works on the copy desk here.)

I remember playing the eighth hole of the pitch-and-putt. It’s a 50-yard drop shot that’s about a quarter swing of a sand wedge. Just seeing the ball soar majestically and hearing that nice thunk and I was hooked.

Little did I know Gypsum Creek’s 17th — the course is hoping to open its back nine next week, Christy Martin said on Saturday —or EagleVail’s 10th and others awaited.

Golf is an inherently stupid game. To review, you are trying to hit a small white ball with oddly shaped mallets over lots of obstacles into a hole.

“You do this one time? Bleep, no. Eighteen bleeping times,” as Robin Williams’ classic not-suitable-for-work rant goes.

It’s nice to engross yourself in something completely meaningless. So-called normal life is tough enough. These days? Bring it on.

As a bit of a refresher, Gypsum Creek’s front nine is what a lot of us eastern Eagle County golfers call the old back nine. We’re talking the links, non-mesa nine, which is actually good because we’ve lost too many golf balls up there.

It’s cart path only if you’re riding even though the open nine is pretty walkable. Greens fees are $35. For more information call 970-524-6200 or go to www.gypsumcreekgolf.com.

WATCH: Ski & tee (skiing and golfing in the same day) with lifetime Vail Valley local Kevin Denton

With snow in the forecast, the season of skiing and golfing in the same day might be limited, until the spring. Vail native Kevin Denton, of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Colorado Properties, made some turns at Vail Mountain on Tuesday, Nov. 19, followed by nine holes of golf at Gypsum Creek Golf Course — with a little work mixed in between.

On the Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute

Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

9/11 Memorial Golf Tournament at EagleVail raises money to support 6 local high school students (photos)

On Sept. 11, a day of remembrance, local veterans, first responders as well as members of the community joined the EagleVail Golf Club in rallying for the annual 9/11 Never Forget Memorial Golf Tournament.

The tournament sold out with 120 golfers and 30 teams hitting the course, as well as bidding on over $10,000 in silent auction items and $1,000 worth of raffle prizes up for grabs.

“This tournament has only one real purpose — to make the world a better place by giving scholarships to our local kids for more education,” said local veteran Pete Thompson. “What an honorable purpose, and we’re glad to be here.”

Local entertainers Tony Gulizia and Helmut Fricker helped kick off the tournament.

“What an honor to be here,” Gulizia, of Vail Jazz, said before singing the National Anthem followed by a song with Fricker, who celebrated 50 years in the United States this summer.

Before hitting the course, a big thank-you was given to Buddy Sims, the chairman of the tournament, and his wife, Bonnie.

Sims said afterward that the golf tournament raised enough money to continue giving $2,000 each to students at six local high schools and then $500 for three years in college as follow-on scholarships.

For more information about the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10721 in Minturn, follow the group on Facebook.

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We are LIVE at the EagleVail Golf Club talking with Buddy Sims and Peter Thompson from VFW Post 10721 about the 9/11 Memorial Golf Tournament and the ceremony and the Pentagon limestone memorial at Freedom Park in Edwards. Local musicians, Helmut Fricker and Tony Gulizia kicked off the tournamnet with the Star Spangled Banner and other live tunes.

Posted by Vail Daily on Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

The adventures of golfing elsewhere once in a while

Last weekend, I played 36 holes of golf.

This is not exactly breaking news. I meet people all over Eagle County who say, “You remember the time we played golf?” No, not exactly. I’m sure the comedy show that is my golf game is more memorable than you are. Sorry.

The newsy element of those 36 holes was that none of them were at EagleVail, Freud’s home away from home and home away from the newsroom.

On Day 1 of the weekend, my Sunday golfing buddy of nearly 20 years — we shall call him Austin, to preserve his anonymity, or not — got us on Red Sky Norman. On Day 2, I showed up at EagleVail, but the course was packed.

So, gasp, I went to Eagle Ranch.

During the winter, I never understand all the people with Epic Passes who go to Utah for Park City or out to Tahoe in California for Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood. “YO, PEOPLE, THERE’S A LOT OF TERRAIN AT VAIL, BEAVER CREEK, BRECK, AND KEYSTONE.”

Now I understand a little more. That and I take three weeks per summer to golf my brains out in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Break out of your rut

It is nice to break out of the routine, and I know a lot of golfers in Eagle County do the same as me. You have your season pass/membership at your golf course/club and just play there over and over.

Why not? It’s there. It’s fun. It’s easy. You know what shots you have to hit. It’s all good.

Except …

As much as I enjoy EagleVail’s funkiness — I like to call it character and local course knowledge — it’s good to get out and play something else.

Even if it kicks your butt, which is a way of saying I had a nice time at Red Sky Norman. It’s the most fun you can have three-putting pretty much every green.

I mean that in a good way. For those of us who play EagleVail, the greens are small because it’s a tight course. You get on the green, you know the break because you’re playing the darn course three times per week, and you two-putt.

Norman’s greens have their own freaking ZIP codes. I kept on thinking I was making a good chip onto the green only to see that my ball was, in fact, seemingly still a 9-iron away from the pin.

To be clear, I am not criticizing Red Sky. It’s fantastic golf. The fairways, tee boxes and so on are nicer than most people’s carpets in fancy homes. The views from the Norman were staggering. If you have the resources or know someone — thanks, Austin — you should give it a go.

The transition, though, from EagleVail to Red Sky just slaps you upside the head. Perhaps since they’re both public loops, comparing my experiences at EagleVail and Eagle Ranch is a better idea.

Although, then again, they’re completely different courses, which is the point of the exercise of playing different golf courses. It was such a novel concept playing greens that don’t bleed away from the fairways. (Again, at EagleVail, we call that character, not crazy course design.)

And holy cow, were the Eagle Ranch fairways firm. Freud loved himself some bounce, just as long as his Precept — the golf ball of champions, as I call it, or, the cheap ball at Walmart, as I also call it — didn’t go into the native grasses. Freud has other phrases for native grasses that can’t be printed in a family paper.

Perhaps the most startling difference between EagleVail and Eagle Ranch are the par-3s. At EagleVail, they’re short with the exception of No. 13, which has a green inhabited by Satan. (Again, we call that character, people.)

With the exception of the aforementioned 13th, EagleVail’s par-3s don’t play more than 141 yards. Eagle Ranch’s shortest par-3 played 146 yards, and it’s the evil 11th. I mean that in the nicest way, and I’m probably not the only one to refer to No. 11 in that fashion.

There’s a reason Eagle Ranch touts it as the shortest par-5 in the county and I parred it if you consider it a par-5.

Like a lot of upvalley golfers, I play Eagle Ranch in the spring and in the fall, so it was fantastic to take on the course’s finish, hole Nos. 16-18, in a howling wind during the high season. (As far as I’m concerned, it’s not Eagle Ranch without a breeze.)

As a 28-handicap, I doubled 16, got a fantastic bogey on 17 and tripled the last without losing my golf ball, for which I think I deserve a medal.

Welcome home

Not only is it fun to play different courses to break up your summer, but it also makes the return to ye olde home course a little sweeter. I may or may not have played golf on Friday at EagleVail — apparently, my editor reads the paper and I need plausible deniability.

It was so nice to be back. (OK, Freud, calm down. You hadn’t played your home course in one week. It wasn’t exactly like you were climbing Everest.) Huzzah, short par-3s and greens I actually understand. (Again, they’ve got character.)

So, get out of your rut. Play Vail — I always forget how lovely the Gore Range is. How do I forget that? Play EagleVail. As much as I joke about character, there is serious holy cow factor on a bunch of the tee shots. Play Eagle Ranch. It’s a great Arnold Palmer design with lots of different tees for players of all abilities. (Love the Chairman’s set.) Play Gypsum Creek. Since they flipped the nines I still confuse the holes, but they’re all still there, and the mesa will test just about anyone. (Talk about a stretch of holes where not losing your golf ball is an accomplishment.)

Go play because it will be snowing soon enough and then you can use your Epic Pass to ski in far-flung places.

Pro golfer says you can’t spell PGA without CBD these days

Scott McCarron has discovered a fountain of youth that has him rocketing up the record book of the PGA Tour Champions (formerly the Senior PGA Tour) — tying the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer with 10 career wins on the tour for golfers older than 50.

The secret to success for the only Gen X golfer on the senior circuit with double-digit wins, including a senior major in 2017? Cannabidiol, or CBD, and specifically the products of Colorado-based Functional Remedies.

“There’s no question,” McCarron said when asked if hemp oil has sparked his senior surge. “There’s kind of a of correlation for me starting the CBD a year and a half ago and just the way I feel now. I don’t feel as run down and as sore when I’m playing.”

A former regular PGA Tour pro, McCarron, 53, won three times on that circuit and recorded top-10 finishes in three of the four majors, including the Masters. He once ranked as high as 20th in the world. But injuries cost him playing time, and McCarron tried a wide variety of anti-inflammatories to recover and various sleep aids to combat sore, restless nights.

Nothing really seemed to work. Now he credits hemp-oil products — in the form of an eyedropper on his tongue or a 20-milligram capsule before bed and a topical roll-on for a sore wrist or elbow — with transforming his game late in life.

“I feel like I can play longer, I can practice longer, play week in and week out and not have that soreness that you might have to take a week off because your body needs recovery,” McCarron said. “Because (the CBD is) helping my sleep, it’s helping my body recover faster and better every night so that I feel good and then I can go ahead and play and perform at a high level.”

CBD catching on

Seemingly everyone is getting in on McCarron’s secret on the PGA Tour Champions.

“I think we’ve got nearly 50 guys on the Champions Tour using CBD oil and using Functional Remedies,” McCarron said. “And you’re starting to see a lot of guys on the regular tour. I just heard that Phil Mickelson is chewing a CBD gum all the time while he’s playing for his aches and pains. He’s got that rheumatoid arthritis and obviously (CBD is) helping him.”

Bubba Watson recently announced he uses CBD products, which have been removed from the list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency. CBD oil has very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

“Interesting thing about PGA, is that PGA Tour Champions doesn’t drug test, so most players don’t need to worry about it,” said Leland Radovanovic of Powerplant Global Strategies, a national consulting firm focused on the legal cannabis industry. “The PGA Tour does, but recently raised their nanogram limit for THC to 150 nanogram. I believe it was around 15 nanograms before. They follow (World Anti-Doping Agency’s) rules.”

Relief worth the gamble

McCarron says he’s heard more players on the regular tour are willing to roll the dice — not just on CBD but also on THC.

“THC is banned, but the levels are so high you would literally have to smoke pot going into drug testing to have a positive test,” McCarron said. “(The PGA) obviously has drug testing as stringent as the Olympics, so guys were hesitant at first (on CBD oil), but they’ve got 10 or 12 guys that are taking it. The tour just wants to make sure that whatever is in it will not give any positive drug tests. So as of right now, everything seems to be going fantastic with that.”

Leland points out that Superior, Colorado-based Functional Remedies for the first time sponsored the Rapiscan Systems Classic, a PGA Tour Champions event in southern Mississippi in late March.

Functional Remedies Chief Science Office Tim Gordon, who grew up in rural Ohio and moved to Colorado in 1996, has been studying and cultivating hemp for more than 30 years. He says he became more than just passionate about cannabis — making it his entire career focus — when he witnessed its transformative healing powers with a friend suffering the effects of chemotherapy.

Since then, Gordon has seen how regular consumption of CBD oil can help everyone from weekend warriors to professional golfers to ultramarathoners.

“I want to [change] mindsets here to understand cannabis just needs to be used almost like a vitamin — kind of preventative medicine in a way,” Gordon said. “Not just at the point of injury or treatment, but leading up to your everyday activity … supplying your body the cannabinoids that you need to be able to recover faster.”

Beyond golf, Gordon says CDB products are gaining acceptance across the spectrum of sports.

“Scott’s one of nearly 50 folks on the [senior] pro tour who are enjoying the benefits of Functional Remedies products,” Gordon said. “Besides all of those, we’re reaching folks in various pro sports -— anything from cycling to pro weightlifting. Everyone’s seeing the benefits, and it’s driving the demand for education and the demand for change.”

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis late last month signed a suite of new Colorado cannabis laws, including two bills (SB220 and SB240) aimed at aligning the state with the 2018 Federal Farm Bill and allowing for better state regulation of Colorado’s booming hemp industry.

Father’s Day weekend tradition: Local sports chiropractor helps out at US Open in Pebble Beach

Dr. Joel Dekanich, a sports chiropractor with Vail Integrative Medical Group, sat in his Vail Valley home watching the final two days of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, California, as Gary Woodland won his first major. The first two days of the four-day tournament, the third of four major golf championships, Dekanich was working with The Wellness Team at Pebble Beach, providing services to players, caddies and volunteers.

“You know who takes one for the team a lot of times is the caddie,” he said, “walking that course all day long and carrying a set of golf clubs.”

This was the fifth year that Dr. Joel Dekanich worked with The Wellness Team at the U.S. Open Championship. This year, the tournament was held in Pebble Beach, California.
Special to the Daily

In his fifth year providing medical relief at the U.S. Open, Dekanich brought his daughter with him.

“She just hung out and while I was working she would be around the course,” he said. “That’s a fun thing to be able to bring your kid to an event like that.”

Established in 1895, the U.S. Open took place earlier in June. For those keeping track at home, Tiger Woods finished tied for 21st.

“It’s a lot of fun. It has kind of become a tradition for me, and it’s the weekend of Father’s Day,” Dekanich said.

Dr. Joel Dekanich is a sports chiropractor with Vail Integrative Medical Group. During Father’s Day weekend, he was in California with his daughter at the 119th U.S. Open.
Special to the Daily

Dekanich also works with the Team USA Paralympic track and field team. In 2016, he went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to help Team USA.

Contact Dekanich at Vail Integrative Medical Group at 970-926-4600 and www.vailhealth.com. While he helps world-class golfers, he also helps locals.

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.

Sonnenalp Club in Edwards stays ahead of the curve, doubles membership in 5 years

For five generations, the Faessler family has strived for and maintained the highest standards at their Sonnenalp resorts in Germany and Colorado. Now, the family is staying on the cutting edge with its improvements to the Sonnenalp Club in Edwards.

Thanks to a $6 million investment from the Faesslers into a fitness center and restaurant renovation at the club that also boasts a beautiful 18-hole golf course, tennis courts and more, the Sonnenalp Club is moving forward focused on family and sustainability.

Five years ago, the club had 220 golf members. Now, there’s 330 new fitness members and 240 golf members — more than doubling where the club was five years ago.

“It’s all Mr. Faessler and him having the vision to see the current model wasn’t working and looking around the country to see what is working,” said Jim Miller, general manager of the Sonnenalp Club. “That family-focused model is one that a lot of successful clubs are going toward.”

Sonnenalp Club’s preview membership allows people to try the club for 12 months without payment of an initial initiation fee.
Noah Wetzel | Special to the Daily

Recently, Sonnenalp Club hosted a dog days of summer event on the golf course, allowing members to hit the course with their dogs. The course also has golf boards and golf bikes as alternatives to carts. The club hosts holiday parties throughout the year, fun tournaments as well as a unique 5-hole short course — playing holes 10, 11 and 12 before playing from a hidden tee box back to 17 and then 18.

“I think the club dynamic is changing and it’s really fun,” said Miller, who’s seen the transformation in his three years with the club. “It’s going in the right direction.”

Sonnenalp is also on a roto for the Colorado State Amateur Tournament, returning to Edwards every five years.

Harvest restaurant at the Sonnenalp Club is also gaining momentum under chef Rosa Provoste, Miller said.

“Coming in two years ago, she’s really helped in getting us in the right direction.”

Through August, the club is offering a Discover Sonnenalp Club membership program, allowing people to preview the club for 12 months without the payment of an initial initiation fee. However, incentives are in place if you decide within 60 days to purchase a membership.

For more information about Sonnenalp Club or membership opportunities, visit www.sonnenalpclub.com.

Assistant editor Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2984 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.