Like the sandhill cranes that visit Fruit Growers' Reservoir every year, Erik Hansen has come full circle. But, unlike the birds, he's here to stay.
Last month, Hansen was hired to serve as the Cedaredge Golf Club's new clubhouse operations director. He replaces Larry Murphy who directed golf club operations from April 2008 to December 2017. Hansen had previously served as Murphy's assistant.
Hansen grew up in the Denver-Boulder area and after high school in 1989 he enrolled at Florida's Edison State College on a golf scholarship. He later transferred to Florida Gulf Coast University where he earned a bachelor's degree in environmental science with a minor in business economics. It was during his undergraduate days in Florida that he first encountered sandhill cranes. During an internship, he worked on a project to make a Florida golf course more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The course was situated near the Peace River adjacent to endangered waterfowl habitat so Hansen's clients included not only the golf course but also the sandhill cranes and other birds that lived nearby. Eventually his work helped the golf course obtain an environmental certification from Audubon International.
In 2002, after university graduation, Hansen applied to work at Western Slope golf courses. He received an offer to interview for a job at Fairway Pines in Ridgway (which is now named Divide Ranch) and the person who was on hand at an Orlando, Fla., trade show to conduct the interview was none other than Larry Murphy. He and Murphy worked together at Fairway for three years.
In 2005, Hansen was offered the position of managing a Domino's Pizza franchise in Montrose. As a young married couple, he and wife Tara decided to take the Montrose opportunity. So the Hansens migrated north. After 11 successful years with Domino's, he wanted to return to golf so he contacted Murphy -- who had since taken the reins at the Cedaredge Golf Club -- and Hansen was hired as an assistant in July 2016. Upon Murphy's retirement in December 2016, and following a competitive application process, Hansen was selected to become golf clubhouse operations director.
Hansen's new role will be to oversee clubhouse operations including the pro shop as well as related purchases and equipment. He will also supervise golf course employees and volunteers and he will work collaboratively with Adam Conway who serves as golf course superintendent. Hansen will also provide direction for all play-related activities including rules and instruction. It's the instructional part of his new job that has Hansen particularly fired up.
In addition to his golf club duties, Hansen will also as the Cedaredge High School golf coach. Last year the high school golf team qualified four players for state competition. Those four talented youngsters have all graduated so Hansen will be fielding a very young team this coming season. Practice traditionally begins in August and Hansen looks forward to working with interested students.
Hansen's plans for the future are strongly focused on community outreach, on youth instruction, and on working with children and families to interest younger generations in the sport of golf. When Hansen's predecessor gave his final report to the Cedaredge Board of Trustees, Larry Murphy reported that one of biggest future challenges facing the golf course would be to involve younger golfers, and Hansen has taken that advice to heart.
He is supporting the efforts of the Cedaredge Ladies Golf Club to promote interest in golf through the "First Tee" program which integrates golf into the elementary school curriculum. The ladies club held a golf tournament last year to raise money for the program and students from Cedaredge Elementary School participated last October. (See a related story about "First Tee" in the Nov 1, 2017, issue of the DCI.)
Hansen has more initiatives in mind to involve kids including a series of free golf instructional clinics geared toward children throughout Delta County. He plans to waive the cart fee for any student, high school age and under, who plays golf with their family. And he envisions more summer camps for youngsters of all ages.
As for the golf course itself, Hansen feels that Cedaredge is a unique course with an especially challenging back-nine. The final nine holes feature narrow fairways and several elevation changes which makes that portion of the course "a thinking person's course." He feels that tackling the back-nine is more than a matter of hitting a tee shot as far as one can. "It's a shot-makers' course," he said, "And that makes it a challenge and fun to play."
Mindful of the desire to get the general community more involved with the golf course, Hansen is considering -- once there is sufficient snow -- designating certain areas for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The challenge will be establishing routes that do not impact the putting greens because the grass there is sensitive to pressure.
Lack of moisture this year has been a mixed blessing. Snow is needed to keep the grounds healthy but the present lack of snow has kept the golf course is busy. During the last five January's there were zero golfers on the course. So far, as of January 4th, twenty-nine golfers have played. The unseasonably warm and dry weather has also encouraged more golfers to purchase annual passes sooner than usual.
Overall, it looks like Hansen's early work to save the cranes has been paid forward. He has found his way to a new home and to his self-described best job ever. He is thrilled with his new position and his sincere hope is to get more people, especially youngsters, involved in the sport he has come to love. As he enters his first year at the golf course he looks forward to a bright future full of good things for the golf course and the community.