Recovery at Rifle Creek
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
BIG LABOR DAY TOURNAMENT PLANNED
Rifle Creek Golf Course will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rifle Creek Labor Day Championship, which is scheduled for Aug. 29 through 31.
The weekend event will kick off with a Pro-Am tournament on Aug. 29, with a two-round championship tournament set for Aug. 30 and 31. To recognize the event, area businesses have helped add $8,000 worth of prize money specifically for this tournament. That dollar amount will be added to the prize pot that was already available as a way of rewarding the surrounding golf community.
Cost is $100 per player, and the registration deadline for the tournament is Aug. 26. The tournament field will cap at 140 players.
Information/registration: Rifle Creek Golf Course, 970-625-1093.
RIFLE — Kyle Daniell readily admits that he wouldn’t even consider playing golf at Rifle Creek Golf Course six years ago. His tune has changes considerably since then.
“I wouldn’t want to be a golf pro anywhere else,” the head golf professional at the golf course said.
For sure, Daniell said the course was in danger of shutting down when he first came on as it’s head pro in 2011. The mounting debt it faced, along with a grim economic outlook locally and nationwide at the height of the recession, didn’t paint an optimistic picture.
Things have changed since then, though. The course has seen a resurgence of business, thanks to some staff reorganization, rate reductions, course improvements and some longtime, dedicated golfers who have played at the course for decades.
“It feels great to be appreciated, and all of the support I got from the membership the first time around was still here when I came back,” said J.R. Wolff, who is in his second stint as the head groundskeeper at the golf course. “If it wasn’t for that, especially for the amount of hours that I put in to taking care of this place, it makes me love it. And if I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be here.”
Rifle Creek, a par-72 championship course with a not-so-standard back nine thanks to its rocky and hilly terrain, has recently drawn some positive reviews. One Website, http://www.golfnow.com, gave it a 4.4 rating out of a possible 5. Another site, http://www.golfcourseranking.com, rated the course at 4.5.
Daniell had a different perspective of the course when he was an aspiring pro golfer fresh out of Boise State in 2008, the same year he won the Rocky Mountain Open golf tournament at Tira Rado Golf Course in Grand Junction. He admitted that he wouldn’t play at the course because of its conditions, and Wolff said the irrigation system the course had in place was out of date and needed replacing.
The golf course, however, had old lines of credit which were open and eating into its bottom line. Business was fine during the town’s oil and gas boom in 2007, but that changed in 2008 when the oil and gas workers left town and took the disposable income the golf course relies on with them.
“You can readily see a big difference in our bottom line from 2008 to 2011,” Daniell said, adding that the course was in a financial hole that was “at least a couple hundred thousand dollars.”
Wolff did leave for a spell, but returned for a second stint at the golf course in 2011. What followed was a massive reorganization at the course to keep it afloat, with most of that reorganization centered around getting the golf course’s bank accounts back in the black.
The 61-year-old Wolff cut his grounds crew staff down to three, but readily admits that a “course this big needs 10 to 15 people doing that.” Meanwhile, Daniell played with the golf course rates, offering deals where people could play a single hole on the course if they wanted to.
He also got the golf course more tech savvy, as Rifle Creek now has a Facebook page and a smart-phone site where tee times can be booked.
“This place was really in the dark ages not too long ago,” Daniell said.
Wolff’s task was much more labor intense. The irrigation system at the course was close to four decades old and desperately needed replaced. The massive task would up taking up most of Wollf’s time.
“He spent most of the first year I was back in a ditch trying to fix those things,” Daniell said, adding with a smile that “I didn’t know how tall he was because of that.”
The key point, however, has come from the course’s members who stayed loyal to the course even through its toughest times. One example Daniell and Wollf mentioned was in July when a torrential rainstorm forced a mudslide that covered most of the 13th green at the course.
“That usually would have shut the course down for two days at least,” Wollf said. “But all we had to do was make a couple of phone calls, and we had 20 members who were out here with shovels helping us dig it out before we knew it.”
The course was open the next day and, the way that Daniell and Wollf see it, that incident summarized the identity of the members and is a big reason the course is still afloat now.”
“All of the people here really appreciate the effort you put in,” Wollf said. “That’s one of the things that makes this place awesome.”
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