Crystal Schick/ Postmedia CALGARY, AB -- Chuckwagon driver Rae Croteau Jr. stands next to his sponsorship tarp, Sundre Golf Club, on Day 1 of GMC Rangeland Derby at Calgary Stampede, on July 9, 2016. -- (Crystal Schick/Postmedia)
Published on: July 10, 2016 | Last Updated: July 10, 2016 3:36 PM MDT
How’s his driving?
With four horses hitched up for a bolt around the Half Mile of Hell, he’s one of the best.
On the links, though, chuckwagon-racing ace Rae Croteau Jr. admits it’s a much different story.
“The driver is my nemesis,” said Croteau, one of the gazillion-or-so golfers struggling to straighten out a wicked slice off the tee. “I’m usually all right with my irons — I don’t hit super-far, but I get along with them good — and I’m not too bad with the putter.
“But it’s just the driver … The driver don’t like me.”
Croteau only squeezes in a few rounds each summer, but he’s proudly representing the bogey brigade at what will be his final spin at the Calgary Stampede’s Rangeland Derby. Just take a peek at his wagon tarp — his rainbow rig is sponsored by Sundre Golf Club and stunning Greywolf in Panorama, B.C., both owned by Totem Golf.
The family behind Totem Golf has a history with chuckwagon-racing — they were longtime sponsors of Jason Glass during their days in the lumber and building-supply business — and figured a partnership with the Sundre-based Croteau was a perfect fit.
In fact, they sat on their hands at the tarp auction until the 34-year-old was called up for his turn on the stage.
Croteau was dinged with three seconds of penalties on opening night, so he’ll need to roll as smooth as the putting surfaces at Sundre for the rest of the Rangeland Derby. After all, the 6,778-yard layout has a well-deserved reputation for superb conditioning.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of similarities between golf and wagon-racing — a four-hour walk on well-manicured grass or a 70-something-second scream around a dirt track — but Croteau revealed there are some common keys to success.
“It’s about consistency and knowing what to use when, whether it’s your pitching wedge or a certain horse in your barn that has a little more run or a little more burst of speed,” Croteau said. “It’s just using your bag or your roster properly. You have certain horses that have certain attributes, and if you know that and you can use that to your advantage, then you’re going to be ahead. But if you hit something too far or you’re not as good with the driver and you end up in the water and get a couple extra strokes just because you have too much pride just to hit it twice with an iron …
“You just have to approach it consistent — either one shot or one race at a time.”
Croteau’s clubs will understandably be collecting dust this week but if you’re aiming to squeeze in a round, Sundre could be an ideal spot to escape from the hullabaloo while also embracing the Stampede spirit.
About a 75-minute drive from the midway, you can burn off all those pancakes at the tree-lined track and will have plenty of time to get back to the city to cheer for Croteau in the nightly wagon races.
The entrance to Sundre Golf Club is located on Hwy 27, part of Alberta’s Cowboy Trail.
But just in case …
“If you’re having a tough time finding it, ours is the one with the chuckwagon parked out front,” said Totem Golf’s Dane Thorogood.
BEAVER DAM’S BIG BIRTHDAY
The fine folks at Beaver Dam Golf & RV Resort will mark a quarter-century of divot-digging good times this weekend, an exciting milestone for the family-owned hangout near Madden.
The late Loris Walsh and his sons, Harley and Richard, originally carved nine holes into this piece of rolling terrain, cutting the first pins in June 1991. Beaver Dam expanded to 18 a decade later and now also includes 83 fully-serviced RV sites.
Helen Walsh still bakes homemade bread for the sandwiches at what they call the Sand Wedge Deli.
“It’s an amazing thing, when you think that this was cattle and grain and the father and two sons had a vision to build a golf course,” said Steve Garside, the GM at Beaver Dam. “The father is not with us anymore, but he sure would be proud of what is here and what is coming.
“I’ve been here 11 years now, and I’ve just seen the golf course grow tremendously. The condition gets better every year. It just keeps progressing.”
To mark the occasion, Beaver Dam is offering a special anniversary rate this Saturday and Sunday — $25 green-fees when you pay for a power-cart rental.