The surge of the coronavirus around the United States drastically altered Kim Eaton’s plans for golfing around the country this summer.
The Colorado native, former police officer and member of the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame’s standard itinerary of playing on greens across the U.S. was halted by cancellations. It seemed like any chances of competitive play this summer were finished.
Fortunately, the tournament she’s won two years in a row avoided shelving: the Western Slope Triple Play.
“It’s different, but I’m just happy to have a place to come play in a tournament,” Eaton said. “All the national stuff I play in has been canceled. It’s nice to have a place to play and some competitiveness and seeing friends I don’t see all the time.”
Tournament organizers nearly decided to cancel the event, as it usually relies largely on out-of-county visitors such as Eaton. According to Western Slope Triple Play organizer Vicki Riley, 85% of this year’s 119 participants are from outside Mesa County.
However, after talking with other organizers and members of the golf community, Riley decided that the tournament should go on. The Western Slope Triple Open began Friday morning at Redlands Mesa Golf Course as scheduled and will conclude Sunday.
“We decided to let these girls buddy up in the carts if they knew each other because they were coming up and going to hotels and restaurants together anyway, so they don’t care,” Riley said. “That made them feel comfortable. That’s just one thing. Taking temperatures. We’re going to have them ride with the same people they’re with, these foursomes, for 3 days because they’re insulated from having to switch cart to cart with different players.
“Even though the Governor, thank goodness, said wear your facemask, we were demanding them anyway that they wear facemasks anywhere they go.”
Enthusiasm from players hasn’t been dampened by a tumultuous year marred by a global public health crisis. Normally, the event’s slots fill up after a few months. This year, it only took two and a half weeks.
That’s especially good news because of the economic benefits of the event for the surrounding area. The total of 119 players eclipsed Riley’s expectations.
“It’s great, considering the adversity we’ve been under,” Riley said. “I expected us to have 80-90 players. It’s all good for the community. We bring a lot of money in. Palisade has the wines, we send players things to do in Grand Junction and tell them, ‘Go to these restaurants, here’s our fine dining, here’s our fine casual, here’s our casual, here’s the chains. Go to Palisade and get corn, get wine, get peaches,’ and they spend money and they have fun.
“They’re here four nights, so the hotels benefit. We want them to go see the Monument and have a great time.”
Event coordinators did have some reservations about holding an event that would bring in so many visitors to an area that’s been less impacted by the coronavirus than many other communities. However, that’s what the Triple Play’s extra measures are for.
“We didn’t (cancel the event) because we decided they’ll be as safe here as their own area,” Riley said. “If they’re wearing their facemasks and doing all the right things, then good for them.”