The Steamboat Springs Dawn Patrol
By Christina Freeman
On a nippy fall morning, Greg Sadowski tees up on the first hole at Haymaker Golf Club. Photo by Suzi Mitchell
Golf is not the first thing that swings to mind when people talk about Steamboat Springs. It also makes for an unlikely explanation as to why someone would choose to relocate to the Yampa Valley. Unlike most transplants, I didn’t come for the powder, and my own reasons for moving here had nothing to do with seeking a wholesome life in the mountains. I was a Scottish lass thoroughly enjoying a career in the golf industry when I met a skier who golfed in summer. Before anyone could shout “fore,” I found myself married and living in Steamboat.
Growing up in Scotland, it’s hard to avoid golf, considering this small land across the Atlantic was where the sport began. My father, who died in 2012, lived and breathed golf, like skiers and their powder. He was a member of several world-renowned clubs, but it wasn’t the prestige or international golfing that inspired him. It was his early weekend rounds at his local club with a core group of buddies, known as The Dawn Patrol. Nothing touched that camaraderie; the endless jesting, competing, taunting and general merriment.
Golf may be a niche sport in the Yampa Valley, but our courses give visiting players a pleasant surprise. After serving six years on the Haymaker Golf Committee, I can say for certain that Steamboat has its own Dawn Patrollers. When the snow melts, a hard-core band of players is itching to swing, like post-storm powder hounds seeking a stash.
Local pros can assert that two of our three 18-hole tracks have their own diehard players.
Haymaker Golf Course
Haymaker’s most regular first-out four-ball is a group as eclectic as you’ll find anywhere. Spanning decades in age from 30s to 70s, this group came together fortuitously. A shared passion for the game coupled with tremendous humor and little wagers make them a regular morning fixture.
Greg Sadowski retired as a physical education and driver's ed teacher and moved to Steamboat in 2002 from the suburbs of Chicago. An eager sports fan, Sadowski has coached everything from badminton to baseball, plus led the annual ski club trip for 40 kids. He volunteered at the Steamboat Ski Area, covering tasks from race crew to courtesy ski patrol until blowing out an Achilles tendon. Sadowski has been serving on the Haymaker Golf Committee since 2011.
Darryl, “The Dog,” Levin grew up in Southern California as part of an athletic family; his grandfather and brother were All-Americans. More akin to surfing than skiing, Levin found his way to the mountains, moving to Steamboat in 1974. Playing off a 13-handicap, his reigning golf moment at Haymaker was a hole-in-one on Hole 7 in 2009. When not golfing or enjoying Steamboat’s outdoor lifestyle, Levin can be found at his mountain-based Szechuan restaurant, Chelsea's White Dragon.
Anthony Mendolia, aka “the young buck,” grew up in San Diego before moving to Colorado in 2003 with his twin brother. Leaving his equally golf-fanatical brother in Denver, Mendolia came to Steamboat in 2009, taking a job at the Steamboat Pilot and Today as a pressman. Working nights allows this fluctuating single-digit handicapper to “grab a couple hours’ sleep before an early morning round with the boys.” Off the course, Mendolia plays softball with his Pilot teammates, tests his trivia knowledge at the Tap House or, when the snow comes, rides his snowboard.
Dave Winn, the most senior member of the group, splits his time among Steamboat, Wichita, Kan., and San Destin, Fla. A retired CPA, Winn bought a condo in the Yampa Valley in 2007 after spending his summers golfing in the ‘Boat, taking off when the cold winds blow.
Catamount Ranch and Club
Dubbed “The Shriners” by the greens' staff at Catamount Ranch and Club, the Dawn Patrollers here are a larger crowd, made up of eight regulars, known for their unusual playing formats and occasional use of multiple carts. Ready golf is the order of the day, averaging nine holes in two hours.
Jim Bronner started coming to Steamboat in the 1970s, before moving here permanently in 2001 from Chicago. A top-ranked agent for Major League Baseball, Bronner is a sporting champ in his own right. A past player on the U.S. International Seniors Amateur Golf Team, Bronner has played in the U.S. Senior Masters and American Seniors Golf Association Match Play Championship. Committed to sports beyond those he plays, Bronner coached the Steamboat Springs High School girls and boys basketball teams. A 4-handicapper, he is currently vice chair on the board of trustees for the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and is a member of the Strings Music Festival board.
Jim Simon hails from the Midwest, but made Steamboat home in 1991. Semi-retired, Simon enjoyed a banking career that included serving as president and CEO of First National Bank and, subsequently, Vectra Bank before moving to a private lending company. When not on the golf course, this 9- handicapper can be found acing opponents at the tennis bubble.
Jim “Moose” Barrows is a Steamboat icon. Although he shot to fame in the 1968 Olympics on skis, he has garnered a somewhat formidable reputation locally as a golfer, founding his own charity golf tournament, “The Moose is Loose.” After an illustrious professional skiing career, Barrows coached the men's downhill US Ski Team from 1977-1980, earning induction into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1996. He has held a commercial pilot's license since 1964, and retains a real estate license, first sought in 1973. Not one to suffer fools, Moose plays golf like everything else in life, hard and fast.
Virginia-raised Rick Garth came to Steamboat in 1990 after a stint in New York City, where he started his career in finance on Wall Street. Soft-spoken Garth, and wife, Donna, were awarded the Yampa Valley Community Foundation’s Philanthropists of the Year award in 2007. Avid supporters of local nonprofits including United Way and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurses Association, they were instrumental is raising funds for artificial turf needed by the Steamboat Springs High School, where their three children attended. Like most of his playing partners, 8- handicapper Garth, is an avid tennis fan.
Heading up the summer season crowd is organizer extraordinaire Kyle Craig who divides his time between Denver and Steamboat. If the stories told in his absence give any indication of this group's relentless teasing of each other, then future players be warned you'll need a thick skin.