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Some true pros

Eben Harrell

Golf professionals can be a dour, disenchanted bunch.They get into the golf business with dreams of sprawling afternoons on the course. Instead, they end up like junkyard mechanics, spending their days baking on the range trying to help golf swings that are beyond repair.For some reason, the Roaring Fork Valley is an exception. Perhaps it’s the burnout-proof short season or the relief of teaching an athletic and coordinated population, but golf pros around here are almost universally cheery.There’s hippy turned Porsche-driving Jon Strecher at Maroon Creek, who deals with the club’s high-maintenance membership with a grace that borders on saintliness. Then there’s teaching pro Doug Rohrbaugh at River Valley Ranch, whose constant smile and contented air seem inexplicable until you see him hit a golf ball. Even Aspen’s Les Kahn, who can do a wicked impersonation of a grouchy grandfather, turns out to be a big softy when prodded.Last week I met the newest addition to the valley’s professional ranks. The Roaring Fork Club, the luscious golf and fly-fishing club near Basalt, recently hired Brian Dillard to run its golf operations. It’s clear how Dillard landed such a high-profile (and surely high-paying) job. As a former Louisiana state boys champion, Hogan tour player and professional at the golf mecca of Hilton Head, he’s got the pedigree. As a golfer, Dillard is what the Brits call a “handsome player.” His powerful swing is both technically sound and feel-based, a throwback in these times of Leadbetter-lasered precision. He can work the ball both directions, and his languid putting stroke reflects the mannerly ease of the South, where he honed his game.Don’t be fooled, though: This Cajun cat’s got character. Several times, exasperation from a mis-hit shot cracked his country club veneer (“Oh leave it alone, wind,” he said in the middle of some sort of one-legged, imploring jig).He’s also got a keen eye; when my swing fell apart on the last few holes, Dillard pin-pointed exactly what I was doing wrong (which was a lot).We were playing together so that Dillard could give me a tour of the course. Dillard eased around the course in 69 shots, entertaining me the entire way. He was hoping to promote the club. Too bad for him, he stole the show.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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