Vail Valley golfer taking a shot at the Masters |

Vail Valley golfer taking a shot at the Masters

EAGLE, Colorado – Keith Humerickhouse doesn’t think he looks like a great golfer, but he is.

Jeff Shreeve doesn’t think he looks like a caddy, but he is.

The local pair are in Bridgehampton, N.Y., this week to attempt to qualify for the Masters, the legendary tournament in Augusta, Ga.

Keith has tattoos up and down his forearm, which is fine. When he hits a golf ball it takes off like it’s escaping from prison, which is better.

“People take one look at me and say, ‘This guy plays golf?'” Keith laughs. “I have tattoos all over my arms. I don’t look like your stereotypical golfer.”

“I’m a good guy who happens to like body art,” he says.

Keith is, as they say, in the zone.

He won the Colorado Mid Amateur championship at the Fort Collins Country Club last weekend. A mid amateur is between 25 and 40 years old. Keith is 34 and that’s the age group he has to win to make the Masters.

Colorado’s local Masters qualifier was at Flat Irons golf course in Boulder. Five players out of 80 advanced to Bridgehampton. Keith finished third with a 68.

The big-hitting left hander shot a career low 61 in Rifle earlier this month.

He won three big regional events this summer, the Colorado West Amateur, the Rocky Mountain Open, then the Colorado Golf Association mid amateurs at Fort Collins last weekend.

He won the Vail Valley Match Play championship Tuesday afternoon after a summer of match play at the Sonnenalp golf club. He left the Sonnenalp course Tuesday, jumped on a plane and flew to Long Island.

“It’s been a good summer. I’m playing good golf and I’m ready for this,” Keith said during a phone call on his way out to Bridgehampton for some pre-tournament practice.

“It’s the chance of a lifetime. It’s a big deal and I’m really excited about it,” Keith said.

Between now and Tuesday, he and Shreeve play nine rounds of golf, plus two practice rounds. He started practice rounds Thursday. Match play runs through next Tuesday.

Stroke play is Saturday and Sunday to slash the 264-player field down to 64. From there they go to match play, a single elimination format. Match play is like running away from a mountain lion. You don’t have to run faster than the lion, you just have to run faster than the guy you’re with. You have to beat the guy you’re playing against, then the next guy and the next guy and …

When that’s all over, there’ll be one player left standing Tuesday and he’ll go the Masters.

“As long as I minimize mistakes, I should be fine,” he said.

Keith will get somewhere around 15 percent less distance at sea level than he gets up here where the air is thinner than a Bill Clinton alibi. That should make him about equal with most golfing mortals.

Keith has been in the valley since 1995. He was a teaching pro at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale, then went on the road to try his hand as a touring pro.

He regained his amateur status in September 2009 and has had a great time just playing golf.

He’s in the flooring business, the owner of Perfectly Laid Hardwood Flooring.

“It’s amateur golf, and we’re not doing it for a living,” Keith said. “I just love to play golf.”

He grew up in Southern California playing baseball. He didn’t pick up a golf club until he was a freshman in college and the center fielder on his baseball team asked him if he wanted to play. He and golf might not have been a love-at-first-sight deal, but it came on pretty fast.

“I fell in love and I put a lot of time into it. It was my job for 10 years,” Keith said.

“I’m the bag hauler/grunt,” Shreeve said.

Shreeve said he’s never caddied before, so he went to Fort Collins last weekend with Keith, and watched how another caddy did it. It’s not quite as complicated as microeconomics, but you have to do stuff right.

Caddies give players helpful advice and suggestions, such as: “See that big tree? Don’t hit it.”

Then there’s club selection. Shreeve’s philosophy is simple.

If Keith asks for a 9 iron and he hands him a driver, he’s a bad caddy. If he hands Keith the 9 iron he asked for, he’s a good caddy.

“If he asks me something, I’ll tell him, but ultimately it’s his call. He knows his game better than anyone,” Shreeve said.

Keeping up is important, too. They’ll be walking four or five miles a day, packing a golf bag. To get ready, Shreeve has been packing his own bag – stuffed with everything but concrete blocks – a few miles a day between his house in Eagle and Eagle Ranch golf course. It was also a great excuse to buy new shoes, and he lost a bunch of weight.

“I have plenty of weight to carry around without all that extra of my own,” Shreeve said.

Keith is just happy to be there.

“We’re living the dream right now. I’ve been waiting for this all year,” Keith said.

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