Finding Some CommonGround

The event calendar for CommonGround Golf Course probably includes many of the same day-to-day entries as those at most other golf facilities. There are plenty of tournaments listed, along with general golf functions, aeration plans, etc.

But besides being a working golf course, CommonGround serves many other purposes. Given that it’s owned and operated by the non-profit CGA and CWGA, the course exists primarily to promote the game of golf and act in its best interests.

With that in mind, CommonGround is home to many “for the good of the game” initiatives. And the schedule in 2010 — the first full calendar year of operations for the Aurora-based public course — reflects the missions of the CGA and CWGA. There are outreach instructional programs for underprivileged youngsters, countless other functions that benefit junior golf, scientific studies that may yield important findings, eco-friendly practices, several statewide golf championships planned, and a rare public-course caddie program.

“Why do we own a course?” CGA executive director Ed Mate asked. “We don’t own a course to make money. The business side is important, but it’s secondary. We own a course for the good of the game.”

To that end, here are some of the events and programs planned for CommonGround Golf Course in 2010:

# The CGA and CWGA make it a priority to reach out to youngsters who might not otherwise be exposed to the positive life lessons golf teaches. The CommonGround Kids Course and instruction facilities provide an ideal learning environment — free of charge — for the young people in Open Fairways, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Special Olympics, Ridge View Academy correctional facility, Aurora Academy, USGA/LPGA Girls Golf and Boy Scouts. Other programs that benefit from the efforts at CommonGround are the Colorado PGA’s in-school golf initiative and Pikes Peak Golf Links.

In the case of Aurora Academy, a public charter school which draws mainly from the diverse area around the course, CommonGround directors of instruction Gary Davis and Elena King have taken golf to the students, teaching them the game in the school’s gym using BirdieBalls.

“It’s pretty cool that we own a course in a community that diverse,” Mate said. “Golf, historically, has been a white, male game. To have a chance to play a role in changing that is pretty exciting.”

Another junior function CommonGround has on the agenda this year will be a clinic that will be co-hosted by the Colorado PGA on May 23, just prior to the Senior PGA Championship coming to Colorado. Trick-shot artist Dennis Walters will conduct an exhibition as part of the festivities. Mate said he hopes the event draws “a couple hundred” youngsters.

To raise money for all these programs — and other junior golf-related matters — the CGA and CWGA host an annual Colorado Junior Golf Fundraising Tournament. This year’s tourney will take place on May 10 at 8 a.m. at CommonGround.

# One area where CommonGround sets itself apart is that it’s one of the few — and perhaps the only — public course in Colorado with a full-fledged caddie program. The course aims to utilize a dozen caddies on a regular basis, with the primary purpose of making several eligible for the Eisenhower-Evans Caddie Scholarship, which is co-sponsored by the CGA, CWGA and the Western Golf Association. Typically, 10 to 12 caddies each year receive tuition and housing scholarships to the University of Colorado.

The men’s club has played a major role in making the caddie program work at CommonGround, not only promoting the idea but funding it in part by using forecaddies to help pace of play during many men’s club events. CommonGround also pushes the program by having 8 a.m. tee times each Saturday during the summer reserved for players taking caddies.

The golf associations are taking another step in promoting the caddie program this year by hiring a caddiemaster for the summer, Amanda Covington, a current Evans Scholar at CU. Covington will train the caddies and help them develop.

“There’s no reason other (public courses) can’t do what we’re doing — have a small program and work with the men’s club,” Mate said. “The reason more don’t do it is because it doesn’t send money to the bottom line; in fact it may take money away (from cart rental revenue). But we’re not about the bottom line. We do it (support a caddie program) because we feel it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t enhance the bottom line directly, but it’s an amenity that adds reputation and credibility. And others can do it, especially if they have a strong men’s club.”

# One thing that has been a natural for CommonGround is hosting some of the top amateur tournaments in Colorado. In 2010, the course will be home to the CGA Match Play (July 5-9), the CWGA Match Play (Aug. 2-5) the Class 5A girls state high school championships (May 24-25) and the Junior Ryder Cup (Oct. 9-10).

The facility is also hosting the CWGA Experience, which is designed to increase participation among women golfers and to build CWGA membership. The event is scheduled for April 24.

# Meanwhile, being an eco-friendly facility is a high priority at CommonGround. Course officials are working with Audubon International and adhering to standards that protect the environment, conserve natural resources and provide wildlife habitats. CommonGround officials hope to receive Audubon International Sanctuary certification by year’s end.

“Golf courses should be seen as open spaces that are valuable to wildlife,” said Tracy Richard, director of agronomy at CommonGround.

To that end, CommonGround has formed a partnership of sorts with nearby Aurora Academy. Last month, Richard hosted a biological field trip for 6th-8th graders from the school, and they toured the wetlands at CommonGround, which serves as a natural laboratory for the students. While with Richard, they studied water quality and the wetlands. Richard said he hopes to host 4-8 such field trips each school year in the future.

“It’s a great fit for both of us to help each other out,” Richard noted.

Also on the environmental front, CommonGround has been working with Colorado State University on a study of the effects of re-used water at the course. Three wireless, remote soil sensors — two at the Kids Course and one in the first fairway — can be monitored on a real-time basis. The goal is to figure out ways to offset undesirable effects of re-used water, the only kind utilized on the course at CommonGround. The results of the study could very well help not only CommonGround, but other Colorado courses that depend on effluent water.

Overall, “I’m very proud of what we’re accomplishing,” Mate said of the “for the good of the game” work being done at CommonGround.

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