Once, twice, three times the champion.
Kim Eaton’s won plenty more Western Slope Triple Play titles than that, as she’s been competing in the tournament since the 1990s. At this point, she’s lost count of how many times she’s finished atop the championship flight.
That hasn’t been a problem for her lately, however. Eaton clinched her third straight Triple Play crown Sunday at Adobe Creek National Golf Course in Fruita, finishing 11 strokes ahead of Jessica Smith at 2-over 217.
This title might be the sweetest of the bunch after much of Eaton’s summer swinging itinerary was struck down by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“It feels good,” Eaton said. “I’m just happy I was able to come this year at all. I’m happy they were able to have the tournament with all that’s been going on in the world these days. All the national stuff I play in got canceled, so it was nice to have a place to go play some competitive golf.”
Eaton has an extensive history on the links. She played high school golf at University High in Greeley before enrolling and playing for the University of New Mexico. She then embarked on a professional career that eventually led to the LPGA. She’s played in the U.S. Women’s Open twice in 1981 and 1983.
She went from pro to amateur when she decided to become a police officer in Evans from 1994-2007. One year before leaving the force to play golf full-time, she was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. In 2009, she was inducted into the Sportswomen of Colorado’s Hall of Fame.
Not only is she used to the altitude of Colorado’s courses, including the three that host the Triple Play each year, but she’s used to the courses themselves. She uses that knowledge each year to get ahead of the competition, even if she never comes in with the expectation of finishing first.
“Well, I like all three golf courses,” Eaton said. “I like them a lot. I’ve just been coming here a lot. It’s a great tournament and I just seem to play well here… I don’t know if I come with the expectation that I’m going to win all the time, but I come with the expectation that there’s going to be some good competition and I’ll have to play well.”
This year’s tournament was played at Redlands Mesa on Day 1, Tiara Rado for the second round before wrapping up at Adobe in Fruita.
Eaton once again had to play well to best this year’s field. Smith finished second at 13-over 228, one stroke above Colorado Mesa University golfer Elly Walters. Kareen Larson took fourth at 16-over 231. Annette Gaiotti finished fifth at 20-over 235.
It isn’t just familiarity with the courses, event structure and consistent winning that attract Eaton to the Grand Valley’s all-female golf extravaganza each year. It’s also the cause that the tournament supports.
Funds from the Triple Play go directly to Hilltop’s Latimer House, which provides domestic violence and sexual assault services.
“I like the fact that it’s a fundraiser and they raise money for a good cause,” Eaton said. “Domestic violence is a real issue, and it’s important because these women need a safe place where they can go because a lot of them feel like they can’t get out of the relationship, no matter what they do. This is a place they can go. I like supporting things like that.”
Ericka Martinez won the first flight, shooting 23-over 238 to finish seven strokes ahead of Karen Seaman. In the second flight, Joanna Kates shot 45-over 260 to edge Joni Hornbeck by three strokes.
Tournament organizer Vicki Riley cruised to the third flight title, shooting 45-over 260 to win by 12 strokes. Michelle Marquardt shot 65-over 280, finishing three strokes ahead of April Branstetter.