Great run for Greg: Glenwood Springs Golf Course pro runs his 25th Glenwood Open tournament
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Greg Gortsema didn’t expect to be making a career move when he started teaching golf. Actually, he just wanted college credit.
In need of one more credit hour at Western Oregon State in Monmouth, Oregon, in 1990 (now Western Oregon University) to make him a full-time student, he convinced his instructor to add him in to the golf course for college credit. In exchange, he’d help teach the class.
“Wow,” Gortsema said, smiling. “I was only 19 when I did that.”
Lo and behold, it wound up kick-starting his career as a golf professional. He eventually was hired by former Glenwood Springs Golf Course head pro Steve Fry as the assistant pro at the course and, five years later, he moved into the head pro spot.
And this weekend, Gortsema, 44, will be a big part of organizing the golf course’s signature event for the 25th year. That event is the Glenwood Open, which has a Pro-Am event that takes place today, and a two-day, up to five-flight event that will run Saturday and Sunday on the nine-hole golf course.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of memories he’s built up in the past two-plus decades.
“You build a lot of friendships and relationships through this tournament,” Gortsema said. “I used to have quite a following from Denver and Colorado Springs. Then to see some of the guys make these great runs.
“But the big thing is to watch some of the guys start playing with higher handicaps, and see them work their way down and get better,” he continued. “That’s a great thing to see.”
Gortsema has seen a lot, including the course-record round of 9-under 61 carded by A.J. Joyner, whose scorecard still hangs on the pro shop wall. That didn’t happen in the Glenwood Open, but there’s plenty of other things he’s able to recall.
He once had to make the hard decision to disqualify a first-flight tournament participant for a rules infraction, taking away what would have been a “very high” finish for him. He remembered a golfer named Jess Wesley, who was a standout golfer in high school and, one year, was in a playoff for the tournament championship that lasted three holes.
He wasn’t able to remember each year those happened, though.
“After so many years, they all start to run together,” Gortsema said jokingly. “But it’s great, great highlights like that I remember really well.”
He remembers the people, though. One person is Tristan Rohrbaugh, a Basalt High School graduate this spring who’ll play golf at Boise State and who gave reigning Glenwood Open champion Keith Humerickhouse a scare on the final day of the tournament last year before Humerickhouse pulled away for the victory on the back nine.
And Gortsema remembers how Rohrbaugh has grown from someone who cared less about golf early in his life to someone who won the Class 3A state championship last fall.
He also remembers people like Doug Jones out of Grand Junction, to whom Gortsema gave a complimentary entry fee after he’d entered the Glenwood Open for 30 consecutive years. It’s gestures like that, along with the way Gortsema runs the open, that have left a lasting impression on the club’s longtime members.
“This one is more organized than most of the tournaments I’ve played in around the state,” said Phil Gallagher, the former owner of Gallagher Optical who has played at the course for close to four decades. “This place was named the best nine-hole golf course in Colorado once, and a lot of that was because of [Gortsema].”
For sure, the course was named the “Best of Colorado” in 2001 by the readers of Colorado Golfer newspaper. Part of that has come from how the tournament has been organized, which has changed dramatically over the years.
Like most people, Gortsema has transitioned from using an exclusive pencil-and-paper organizational system to using computer programs, which he admits saves a lot of work. He does admit to remaining “old school” for some aspects of the tournament, following his statement by displaying the four-page entry sheet filled with pencil and eraser marks.
Gortsema also admitted that when courses like River Valley Ranch in Carbondale and Lakota Canyon Golf Course in New Castle opened, there were some whispers about him leaving. Overall, however, he’s been content to remain a consistent part of a golf course through 25 years of inevitable change.
“It was a pretty big deal at the time to be 25 years old and land a head professional job,” Gortsema said. “I got to know the people here and made tons and tons of friends. Plus it’s a good place to be. It’s been a good run.”
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