Vidakovich column: Finding stars while searching for Lance
On the afternoon of Friday, July 7, I jumped in my car and made the short trip from my house up to the Glenwood Springs Golf Club. I was on a mission to see if I could possibly catch a quick glimpse of a star. I walked away a few hours later contemplating just exactly who the real stars of the day were.
It all began at the starting line of the July 4 FireKracker Run at Two Rivers Park when GSGC superintendent Jim Richmond, a fellow runner, told me than Lance Armstrong had signed up for the low-amateur event at his course, which is held the day before the beginning of the Glenwood Open tournament each year. At first, I thought Richmond was giving my leg a hard tug, him knowing that I followed the Tour de France closely during the days of Lance, and pulling hard for the cancer-surviving-Texan each time he pedaled up one of those steep mountains in the Alps. I was assured though, that it was indeed the authentic Lance that was coming. The golf course staff had done their due diligence in checking to make sure that it really was the 7-time champion of biking’s toughest endeavor that would be taking on the slick greens and slanted fairways on the hill.
I know, some of you might be saying right now that Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles when he admitted to cheating a few years back. I’m not condoning taking any type of drug to enhance athletic performance, but in my eyes, Armstrong wasn’t doing anything that the rest of the cyclists weren’t doing also. His second worst mistake though, was vehemently denying any wrongdoing, and pointing his finger at others, each time his accusers pressed him on the issue.
Everyone has an opinion, whether it’s on Lance Armstrong, Donny Trump, or the traffic in Glenwood Springs. Right or wrong, I knew firmly where my allegiances lie as I perched myself on a soft tuft of grass on the slightly sloping hillside just behind #9 green, and waited for Lance and the three other golfers in his group to come strolling down the fairway and into my view.
I ended up waiting quite some time as I watched group after group play challenging approach shots and tricky putts from above the cup on Glenwood’s closing hole. I’m happy to say that I knew most everyone in each group of four, so time wasted it certainly was not!
As I sat in cool summer afternoon attire, I was continually greeted with smiles, waves, handshakes, and the always appreciated hug. Nic Rocco, a nice young man and very good golfer, even turned over the driving duties of his golf cart to his passenger in order to walk over to see how the heck I had been.
What follows briefly, and I hope I don’t forget anyone, is a list of all the salt-of-the-earth folks I got to see as I waited on Lance, (not listed in any particular order of importance, because they are all important): Doug Meyers, Rocco, Pat Koerner, Mark Smith, Dave Sorel, Jeff Austin, Kirk Blaszyk, David Vanderhoof, Roland Gauthier, Greg Velasquez, Trent Chaney, Jerry Butler, John Pelland and Mark Bean.
Boy, did these people brighten my day.
I have to admit that I felt a tinge of nervousness as I spotted Lance driving in the cart toward me at the top of the green, just above the sand trap. As he played a very good shot to just off the fringe of the green and above the hole, I noticed that his physique would not be categorized as imposing by any means. Medium height in stature, Armstrong is still lean and fit, exactly what you would expect from a champion cyclist. I was disappointed that he never looked my way as he and his partners putted out, and put the finishing touches on the hole. In fact, he kept his back turned to me and others who were up near the #1 tee box, acting like he really didn’t want to be bothered. For someone who has been through all the trials and tribulations that he has encountered in his lifetime, I can’t say that I blame him at all.
From a distance, I watched his group hit their tee shots and then disappear west into beautiful mountain scenery down the #1 fairway. I then decided it was time for me to disappear also as I headed for my car and home.
Later that afternoon, and in the days that followed my encounter with Lance, I told several people about my big afternoon at the golf course, and who I had seen. Many were impressed or excited, equally as many were unimpressed, and some had choice words about Armstrong that cannot be printed in the Post Independent.
Actually, I wondered how impressed I was. It was neat to see Lance Armstrong, and as I said earlier, what he has accomplished in life is truly remarkable, especially his winning battle with cancer.
There are times in life that the realization of the obvious unexpectedly comes up from nowhere and hits you like a Joe Frazier left hook. This smack of reality came to me when I thought of the genuine stars I encountered on my visit to the golf course. I was looking for one star, and I got to see many. My friends doing the Tour de Glenwood Golf Course that summer afternoon were the real show-stoppers.
It’s really a no-brainer when I think about Lance keeping the general public at bay, or Doug Meyers yelling at me as he drove away that afternoon in his golf cart, “Hey Mikey V, go get yourself a beer in the clubhouse and put it on my tab!”
Take some time to look around each day. The true stars in your life are already with you.
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The Glenwood Springs High School girls swim and dive team capped an undefeated season over the weekend, winning the Southwest Conference finals in dominating fashion.