The Tradition Continues
WALSENBURG- What began as a group of 14 friends wanting to play golf has evolved into one of the premier tournaments of the Walsenburg golf season. Today, the Clovis Memorial Tournament brings in 64 players from Denver to Walsenburg with their families, to participate in a weekend of fun and to celebrate the life of a dear friend. It began in 1987 when Clovis Gayton and Tony Lucero asked brother Art Gayton to arrange tee times for Gayton to bring down friends from Denver to play a weekend round of golf. It was known then as the T. C. and Friends tournament. Over the years it grew to over sixty players. Gayton, who was known to his friends as Mr. C., became the organizer of the event and the tournament was renamed the Mr. C. and Friends tournament.
Gayton was a successful contractor in Denver who enjoyed his roots in Walsenburg. It was natural for him to bring his associates to play a little course in his hometown, away from the crowded links in the Denver area. What began as a weekend of fun became an annual event. The format of the tournament has changed over the years and this change has kept the play interesting. Today, they play an ABC format: a three-person team where the ‘A’ player has the lowest handicap, the ’B’ is a blind draw and the ‘C’ includes a female team member. Following Clovis Gayton’s death in 2003, a memorial scholarship of $1500 was awarded and his friends continued the tradition.
Friends took over the organization of the tournament following Gayton‘s death as a tribute to his name and to bring together friends to reminisce. Players come to Walsenburg midweek to get in a few rounds. Original players and friends like Jim and Wendy Perra will prepare breakfast before the rounds of golf; Phil and Gloria Covarrubinas will provide grab bags. Longtime friend Bill Gonzales is now organizing the event and his wife, Helen, will bring jars of her homemade green chili. This event also is an economic stimulus for the area. When these players come to town, they spend thousands of dollars at the local establishments during the week they are here. Even in Clovis Gayton’s death, his legacy and good name continues, and in an indirect way, he is still giving back to the community.
LA VETA – Walsenburg has their Clovis Invitational and La Veta has their Armadillo. The Armadillo Open, better known as the Bova Tournament, is an annual golf outing which brought thirty-six golfers to La Veta this past weekend. The Armadillo began thirty years ago when a group of twelve Colorado State University graduates were looking for an opportunity to break away from the busy Denver metro golf courses to have a weekend with the guys. In the early years, they switched around playing all the mountain courses until they found a home in La Veta. That was twenty years ago. The tourney’s namesake was a statue of a golden armadillo with a golf ball stuck to its tail. It was a traveling trophy awarded to the winner until one year it was nearly destroyed by construction materials when the winner left it in the back of his truck.
While the golden armadillo is gone, the tradition and fun continues. With an entry fee of $350, the players and spouses pour an estimated twenty thousand dollars into the local economy over the weekend as they spend money at the local eateries, bars and shops. According to Bruno Bova, who has organized the tournament for the past twenty years, “We like coming back to Grandote. It is an excellent course and our people have a great time. Next year we are hoping to bring in 40 players.”
Most of the players have been coming back for many years. This tradition is marked into their calendars a year ahead of time and their vacations are planned for the second weekend in July. This tournament was one of five other tournaments held at Grandote this past weekend. The trend seems to be that many large groups from out of town are reserving tee times at the local courses which makes Huerfano County a destination spot for the sports enthusiast. As long as they visit and are willing to spend their money, we will continue to show them some good ole’ small town hospitality.
Tapia-Schultz Claim Grandote
LA VETA – For the second tournament in a row, the team of Andrew Tapia and Tom Schultz claimed victory. They defeated a field of twenty-two twosomes to win the Grandote Open tournament with a net low of 124.2. Tapia and Schultz defeated the team of Jim West and David Middleton by only three strokes, thanks in part to Tapia’s ace in Sunday’s play. Third-place finishers in the first flight were Jim Allen and Frank Swafford.
In the second flight, The team of Neil Coco and Frieda Lessar captured top honors. Rodger Lawson and Stan Gerbe finished second and Mickey Dillon and Louis ’Doc’ Marquez finished third. Players came from as far away as Denver to compete in this annual event.
The conditions were exceptional, according to some of the golfers, but they joked that “they didn’t know how to play without the wind.” The greens were unusually slow both days and the fairways were well-groomed. The format of the two-day event was a best ball format with a net handicap score. This format allows golfers with varying abilities to compete for the top prize. Tapia and Schultz entered tournament play with the lowest handicap (.80). Their two-day totals of 61 and 65 were also the lowest gross score of the weekend. Both winning teams also qualified last weekend for the ESPN best ball tournament which will be held in August. If Tapia and Schultz keep playing the way they have, they could win that tournament as well and advance to the Nationals in Las Vegas this October.
LA VETA– It’s something most golfers only dream of. Very few get one, but for Andrew Tapia, this was his second. Tapia hit a hole-in-one on the number ten, 170-yard, par three hole Sunday afternoon during the final round of the Grandote Open. He used an eight iron. This ace gave his team the advantage and helped propel them to the winning spot as 2008 Grandote Open champions (see related story).