Clem Martin loves volleyball. Throughout the 70's and 80's he lived in Corpus Christi, Texas where he played 6 days a week. Clem helped run the annual Memorial Day 3's tourney, and he was affectionately known as " that older guy with game"! And like so many of us, Clem taught the game to his boys, teaching them to bump when they were 5 and 6. The result…a family that played ball, on the beach, in the back yard, at the side of the road…if they had a ball, there was peppering to do!
In the late 80's, Clem, and wife Janet relocated to Bonham, TX. They continued to play, both in Bonham and in Dallas. They were hard core and even bicycled from Texas to Aspen one year to play in the Motherlode tournament. In 1987, Clem and Janet were dealt a blow, their 28 year old son "C" (short for Clem) was diagnosed with cancer; four years later, in January of 1990, he passed away. Throughout Clem's fight with cancer there was volleyball. On one particular occasion, actually, on a random August 7th, "C" heckled his father, calling him a "Putterhead" after a shanked ball. The word stuck and began to infiltrate the Martin family vocabulary, on and off the court. The Martin's subsequently christened August 7th National Putterhead Day.
Per "C's" request, his ashes were spread in the Colorado Rockies where he had made the Motherlode Bicycle trip with Clem and Janet before he passed. They also honored his wishes and in August of 1990, 17 nets were set up on the "Martin Compound" in Bonham and friends and family joined together to remember, tell stories, eat, drink and play a little volleyball…the first Putterhead.
The Bonham gathering was repeated in 1991 and 1992, but 1993 found Clem and Janet summering in Frisco, Colorado; they observed that other mountain communities had summer tournaments but Summit County was lacking. The first Colorado Putterhead Tournament was held on the Summit County High School Soccer field in Frisco and it was "all about fun". Players from the early tourneys will remember Clem and Janet...kicked back in camping chairs, umbrellas overhead and paperwork spread on their laps, running the show! They did it again in 1994, but in '95 they could not make the trek out to Colorado so they passed the tournament operations to the Breckenridge Parks and Recreation District.
In 2002, Recreation Director Diane McBride found herself running the 55 team event at Carter Park in Breckenridge and decided to look into possible alliances to grow the event. She contacted Steamboat Doubles organizers, Volleyball of the Rockies (VOTR), and asked them if they would be interested in taking over the tournament. VOTR wanted to continue the "all about fun" attitude that was part of the tournaments inception, but also grow the tournament. VOTR added a complimentary Saturday picnic/bbq allowing players to hang out around the Carter Park BBQ cooking burgers; sipping on drinks; talking and watching volleyball. VOTR also added music to the event. For the first couple of years, local favorite (and Bubba Gumps regular) Rob Wivchar played live acoustic sets on both Saturday and Sunday. Rob has since been replaced by an IPOD. 2010 saw the Corona Light Wide Open Tour DJ mixing up the music on stage.
The event has grown from one day and 55 teams in 2002, to three days and over 600 teams in 16 divisions in 2016. The tournament has expanded to include not just Carter Park, but all of the grass fields in the town of Breckenridge, plus sand courts in nearby Silverthorne. Usually the past the AA Grass divisions were at Carter Park and get to watch the Open Players in the sand, the B and BB players at the Recreation Center! The tournament's growth allowed us to set up local sponsorships with the Saturday Night Player Party @ Napper Tandy's.
With only two courts at Carter Park, the Open draw at Putterhead has always remained small. Returning teams from previous years get seniority on the limited slots; it has been a tournament that Colorado players traditionally do some "partner swapping" and play with someone new. In 2008, Putterhead expanded to include the two sand courts at the Silverthorne Recreation Center - this allowed expansion in the open division. The tradition of alternating the Saturday rounds of Men's or Women's competition at this secondary location began with the Women's Saturday matches in Silverthorne in 2008 & the men in 2009. Now both genders play equally on the 4 Silverthorne and 2 Breckenridge courts.
2010 saw Putterhead/Breckenridge Doubles team up with the Corona Light Wide Open Tour for one year. Through the support of Corona Light, we were able to construct two new courts in Silverthorne and subsequently expand the open Draw to accommodate over 28 teams, per gender. Corona Light also contributed $15,000 in prize money for the open division which enticed a few out of state teams to make the trek to 9,600 feet. Teams included professionals like South of the Border Volleyball Vacation Pros like Aaron Wachtfogel, Tealle Hunkus, Ty Loomis & Kevin McColloch.
2017 the event continued to morph. As the event lost the ability to use a majority of the grass we previously used for the past 10 years we had to "tweak" the weekend. Coed was switched to Friday, AA/BB Men's and Women's grass divisions remained on Saturday & A/BB Men's/Women's Grass was moved to Sunday. Check out the Event Schedule for the new weekends format.
Putterhead has evolved into a great Colorado Mountain Tournament. The commute to Summit County is easy 60-90 minutes from Denver, the lodging affordable, the volleyball amazing, the temperature cool and the nightlife top notch. It becomes difficult to think of a better way to spend an August weekend!
Remember, life is short, so get on the court and get in the game.
See you in Summit County!