Norton finds golf’s sweet spot

Courtesy of Tim Walsworth

Rick Norton, left, enjoys a sweet payday of $10,000 for his 91-foot putt at the 17th Annual United Way of Southwest Colorado and Durango High Noon Rotary Charity Golf Classic at Dalton Ranch Club this summer. Joining him to celebrate his win are, from left, Rich Kolb, Melisa Caskey and Tim Walsworth.

A beautiful day on a golf course is a reward in itself, and when you’re playing in a tournament for two good causes, it is absolutely guilt-free. But winning $10,000 for an unbelievable 91-foot putt made it an experience Rick Norton will never forget.

The tournament has the longest name ever – the 17th Annual United Way of Southwest Colorado and Durango High Noon Rotary Charity Golf Classic. Whew!

The putting contest took place after the end of the 18 holes and was sponsored by Rich Kolb on behalf of Habitat for Humanity. (Lest you get upset that Habitat is out $10,000, Kolb purchased a small insurance policy that paid off if someone made the putt. Since they hardly ever do make it, the policies aren’t too pricey.)

The tournament also was remarkable in that a golfer, who prefers to remain anonymous, made a hole-in-one on the fifth hole on the Dalton Ranch course. He went home with a new set of really nice golf clubs, United Way CEO and President Tim Walsworth tells me. (Although, I would think seriously about changing clubs after making a hole-in-one with the clubs I had. But maybe that’s just me.)

The clubs were courtesy of Morehart Murphy Regional Auto Center.

The tournament also held a $1 million hole-in-one on the 18th hole sponsored by Mercury Payment Systems. The name of one player is drawn, and he has to make a 160-yard shot into the hole. That player wasn’t successful this year, but with all the golf tournaments in this area in the summer offering that contest, maybe someday I’ll be writing about a check with a lot of zeros going to a very happy golfer.

Overall, the tournament brought in $18,000, which will be split between the two organizations. Walsworth said it’s the highest amount raised since 2008.

The first-place team at the tournament was led by Justin Osborn of the Wells Group, who happens to be this year’s president of High Noon Rotary. Coincidence? I think not, but it’s pretty cool.

Robert Goodin of the McAlvaney Group led the second-place team, and Josh Nieman from the Bank of the San Juans and his team took home third-place honors.

Coming in dead last were David Downs and the team his law offices sponsored, but that may be because Walsworth was on his team. (Sorry, Tim.)

And while Durango may be “the least fashion-conscious town in America,” the golf tournament was definitely paying attention to who was the most stylin’. Those honors went to Sam Beardsley and his team, which was sponsored by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

There were a lot of sponsors for the tournament, but I don’t have room for all of them. I will mention Wells Fargo Bank, which served as the title sponsor again this year. This is the kind of event that takes a cast of dozens to put on, so congrats to all involved in organizing what is perhaps the luckiest golf tournament in town.

I’m thinking it will be a lot easier to recruit golf teams next summer.

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Celebrating the last Virgo birthdays are Ulys Gardella, Lucille Smith, Pat Dworkin, Connie Matthys, Dianne Donovan, Paul McGurr, Lori Jackson, Pat Campbell, Todd Sieger, Melinda Jameson, Lynne Murison, Jeffrey “J.T.” Munger, Mark Dickson, Ila Graham, Toby Hull, Chase Pierson, Brennan Stottlemeyer, Dan Bender, Kaitlyn Downey, Wendy Klemm, Henry Newcomer and Abigail Wiley.

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I’ve heard of people driving and flying to their 50th high school reunions and even some who biked there. But this is the first time I’ve heard of someone walking – from Denver.

When Stan Foster, a member of the Durango High School Class of 1962, decided he felt as fit as the day he graduated, he came up with the plan to take the Colorado Trail down to Durango. The retired Air Force officer and his wife, Carol Capps Foster, routinely climb Colorado’s Fourteeners, so he was sure he was up to the challenge.

While his wife logged 120 miles on the trail, Foster completed the whole 500-mile trek, and still felt good enough to enjoy the festivities of the reunion Friday and Saturday.

Eighty-four class members attended the event, out of a graduating class that either had 164 or 204 members. (There was a bit of debate on that front.)

My thanks go to Tony Miles, who ran into Foster while cycling with a friend between Molas Pass and Engineer Mountain, who thought it might make a good story; and to Karla (Goff) Clark, who knew immediately who it was when I called seeking a name.

After the fun and the reminiscing, the Fosters took the easy way home – they drove.

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It seemed so far away when the Durango Friends of the Arts told me to save Sept. 28 for their Fall Luncheon and Fashion Show. And now it’s just next week.

The theme this year is “Happiness Is ...” and just thinking about all the things that make people happy seems like a fun way to start. There has been a great deal of giggling when members are asked what the entertainment will be, and I hear the fashions are gorgeous this year, too.

This is DFA’s biggest fundraiser of the year, and the auction items are shaping up to be something special, too. There will be one, and only one, live auction item, and it’s a doozy. Tim Sullivan and his band, Narrow Gauge, one of the most popular groups in the area, have donated a performance to be sold on the block.

The silent auction starts at 10:30 a.m., lunch and the festivities begin at 11:45 a.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel.

This is a buy-your-tickets-in-advance-only event. Tickets are $40 and must be purchased no later than Monday by contacting Myriam Palmer at or calling Carol Bruno at 259-0313.

And don’t forget to wear your most outrageous, glamorous or beautiful hat – the hat contest is one of the traditional highlights of the event.

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Many, many congratulations go to the four Rotary Clubs in La Plata County – Rotary Club of Durango, Durango High Noon, Durango Daybreak and Pine River Valley Centennial Rotary Clubs – and Roger Ptolemy, a member of the Rotary Club of Durango. Ptolemy served as district governor of District 5470, which includes all of western and southern Colorado, for 2011-12.

He got some good news at a recent zone conference in Overland Park, just outside Kansas City, Kan., which was attended by about 220 former, current and incoming district governors from nine states and most of Texas.

During Ptolemy’s year, the district raised between three and four times its normal amount for the Rotary International Annual Program Fund, which took it to fifth in the world in dollars per capita raised. That’s out of about 535 districts with 1.2 million Rotarians in the world.

The way Ptolemy words it, RI asks members to donate $100 a year for the fund, which grants money to programs around the world in six areas: potable water, literacy, maternal and child health, economic development, peace and conflict resolution and disease prevention and care. That $100 is par, to put it in golf terms, which is how this column started.

The per capita average raised in 2011-12 for District 5740 and its 2,350 Rotarians, was almost $325 per Rotarian, about $740,000 total.

Now here’s the cool part. The money stays in the annual fund for three years generating interest to pay fund costs, then 50 percent comes back to the district for its clubs’ use in their local, regional and international projects. So in 2014-15, which just happens to be the year when Clyde Church, another member of the club will be district governor, the district will have about $370,000 that clubs can tap for projects. (Church and his wife, Paulette, also a Rotarian, were at the zone conference to hear the good news as well.)

The top district in the world? District 5360 in Canada, with a per capita giving total of just more than $415.

Those dollars don’t include the contributions to PolioPlus, Rotary’s incredible effort to eliminate polio from the face of the Earth. Including those funds, District 5470 gave a total of almost $1.1 million, coming in 10th in the world, with the top district in the world in India. Rotarians there donated $3.45 million.

It’s an amazing achievement for Colorado’s smaller cities and rural areas.

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The mountainsides are beginning to blaze with color for the anniversaries of Will and Carol Connelly, Curtis and Anne Swanson and Ralph and Tami Hoffner.

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Here’s how to reach me:; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality photos.

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