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Navajo Trail Open begins Thursday at Hillcrest Golf Club

Pro-Am is on Thursday, 54-hole tournament begins Friday
Multiple-time champion Wil Collins, playing in the pro division, tees off during the first round of the 2023 Navajo Trail Open at Hillcrest Golf Club in Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file photo)

Any golf fan should be excited about this weekend. On the national level, the U.S. Open starts on Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Locally, some of the best golf professionals in the Southwest will be in Durango this weekend for the 63rd annual Navajo Trail Open.

The Navajo Trail Open will kick off on Thursday with the pro-am. It’s a 10 a.m. shotgun start for the fivesomes of professionals and amateurs competing this weekend.

At 7:15 a.m. on Friday, the 54-hole tournament will begin.

“On the pro side of things, we're actually really strong,” Hillcrest Golf Club head golf professional Brett Wolf said. “It's probably one of our strongest pro fields ever. We have, I want to say at least three or four returning winners, a couple local pros that haven't really played in the past few years, that are playing this year. So we're excited about that.”

Wolf also said the amateur field is smaller but Wolf is excited about how that should help with the pace of play of the tournament and course conditions.

Returning is 2016 and 2023 champion Wil Collins, who shot a Navajo Trail Open record -15 in 2023 and won by 6 strokes over Blake Wheeler, who is also returning.

Collins played professional golf for 14 years and was on the PGA Tour in 2009.

The 2017 winner of the Navajo Trail Open Jere Pelletier is back and hopes to win again. Conquistador Golf Course head golf professional Micah Rudosky is playing after playing in the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in May.

Fans are encouraged to come and walk the golf course to watch all the action. The golf course will be closed to the public from Thursday-Sunday.

“This is our one big chance to show off what Hillcrest can potentially be,” Wolf said. “It's hard to get the course in perfect conditions with the amount of play we get. But for this event, it's as close to perfect as we can get it … So of course, prep-wise, our grounds crew knocked it out of the park, as they always do.”

Wolf said the rough is a little longer, the fairways are looking good and the greens are as fast as they’ll be anytime this year.

There is no cut for the 54-hole tournament. Players will play in the same pairings on Friday and Saturday. One day they will play in the morning and the other day they will play in the afternoon. Then on Sunday, the players will be repaired based on the standings with the leading players teeing off last.

The prize money for the amateur pool has increased after the United States Golf Association recently increased the amateur regulations.

Wolf isn’t sure what the winner of the pro field will earn but he estimates it’ll be around $8,000.

There’s a chance of rain on Friday but Thursday, Saturday and Sunday should be good conditions for players and spectators.

Wolf is excited for spectators to come to Hillcrest to enjoy some high-level golf. The restaurant will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday so spectators can grab some food and watch the battle to win the 2024 Navajo Trail Open.

bkelly@durangoherald.com