Chris Thomas spiked the shovel into the earth and pulled, pushing out dirt and sweat and a little grunt.
It’s not the kind of work Thomas of Windsor enjoys on a day off. In fact, it’s the kind of work he does for his job, as the owner of Rocky Mountain Remodeling.
He had some concrete to pour and a stake to set and a sign to install. But he’s the president of 3 Rivers Disc Golf Club, and jobs like this fall to him more often than not.
He and the vice president, Todd Krauss of Loveland, run the club because they love to play disc golf.
But it’s not all shooting and sunshine, not by a long shot.
On Monday, the two were installing a sign that will show the layout of a hole and the par. You know, just like a real golf course, the two said with a smile.
They were sprucing up the 18-hole course, which meanders through the woodsy Sheep Draw creek slithering behind the Family FunPlex, to prepare it for April 19.
That will be a big day in the club’s six-year history because a Professional Disc Golf Association tournament will take place in Greeley for the first time.
The tournament will feature 90 players from all over the country. It’s a big deal and they hope to get some spectators.
They want to show everyone what their sport is about, how there are different discs and strategies and how, most of all, it’s not just about tossing a Frisbee around any longer.
That is, after all, the point of all this sweat.
“It is a job,” Thomas said, “only you’re not getting paid for it. But if you want the sport to grow, well…”
Thomas founded the club in 2008, and he started with improvements to the Epple Park course off 4th Street and just east of 47th Avenue. The six-hole course was the only one in the area. They installed alternate locations for the holes, as a way to occasionally freshen it up, and they move the holes when the mood strikes. It was nothing radical, and yet it took some work. That, Thomas said, earned the trust of the city of Greeley.
They began walking the Sheep Draw Trail behind the FunPlex as early as 2009 and envisioned a much tougher course, one with 18 holes, hungry trees and bushes and even a water hazard in the Sheep Draw creek.
“We saw this is a really fun, challenging course,” Thomas said. “This one is rugged.”
They wanted a course like that for themselves, of course. That was a big reason why Thomas put the club together.
Thomas plays as a pro and he’s even sponsored by Innova, a disc company that gives him equipment. He’s played for 10 years.
But that, of course, meant a lot of work getting it together. Once the club had city approval for the course and where the holes would go, they hosted three fundraising tournaments.
The first was in May of 2011. They put in nine holes at first and, after raising more than $10,000, finished the course at the end of 2012. They saved “a ton” on labor, Thomas said, because they did most of the work themselves.
The course makes northern Colorado one of the prime spots for disc golf, as the club also built and maintains the Oxbow course in Windsor.
The national PDGA event on April 19 is just one example of regional players taking notice of the Greeley course.
Jeramy Salazar, 34, of Windsor, played it Monday and called it one of the better ones in the state.
“A lot of courses are wide open,” Salazar said. “But this is very challenging. You’ve got obstacles and natural vegetation. I love it.”
The course gets used every day, and the numbers are growing, Krause said, though there’s no real way to measure that other than just the eye test.
They still don’t consider it done. They’ve got signs to install for instance. There will be many more days in the sun.
“We don’t get to play as often as we would like,” Krause said.
Then Thomas paused in between a shovel full of mud.
“But we will play as soon as we’re done here,” he said and smiled.
“It is a job, only you’re not getting paid for it. But if you want the sport to grow, well …
President, 3 Rivers Disc Golf Club