Erroll Miller reflects on golf-pro career synonymous with Breckenridge Golf Club
BRECKENRIDGE — It was a half century ago, at the age of 14, when Erroll Miller picked up the game that would become he and his family’s life: golf.
At that time, the Arvada native realized baseball maybe wasn’t the best bet for him thanks to his smaller stature. So he traded his bat for some irons and headed down to the city of Denver’s municipal Willis Case Golf Club. For $1.50 on Thursdays he learned the game. A year later, he switched over to the new Indian Tree course near his home. More enthralled with the game day by day, Miller pestered the golf staff to have his first job in golf.
“So the first thing I ever did in the golf business was selling soda pop on the 13th Hole for the (courses’) Ladies Club,” Miller said.
And he’s been working at golf courses ever since. But come the end of this season, Miller will retire from his 35-year role as Breckenridge Golf Club’s PGA Pro and Director of Golf Operations.
For those years, Miller’s been the one-and-only pro the club has ever had at the course designed by one of his childhood heroes — golf legend Jack Nicklaus. In all these years as the face of Breckenridge’s golf community, friends of Miller, like Gary Martinez — the town manager who hired Miller in the mid-80’s — don’t mince words about what he meant to the local golf scene.
“He put the golf course on the map,” Martinez said.
After the golf course was completed in 1984, Miller stuck out as a candidate for Martinez thanks to his experience at Vail Golf Club. If Martinez and the town weren’t sure they made the right choice before the course’s inaugural season, they were assured by the end of it. By mid-July of 1985 Martinez said the town had “a serious problem on its hands,” as they realized the greens weren’t draining properly.
It’d be the first of many mountain-golf variables, such as spring and summer snow and ice storms, that Miller dealt with over the years.
Martinez said Miller managed the crisis of a magnitude many others “wouldn’t have been able to handle.” Miller’s leadership and work ethic so impressed the town that in 1992, after the town recreation center opened, they tabbed Miller as the guy to manage the facility through the winter.
“And he did a five-star, top-notch job,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t a golf course, but it was a people problem, and Erroll knew how to solve those.”
For decades Martinez and Miller’s longtime close friend and playing partner, Pat Stanton, said Miller helped the people of Breckenridge learn to love golf. Back in the mid ’80s, golf wasn’t exactly the most popular pastime at close to 10,000 feet. But he created youth golf programming before it was en vogue, and many locals of all ages benefited from his instruction.
The leader they learned from was someone with not only a passion for the sport, but the competitive drive of a winner — whether it be in golf, darts, shuffleboard or horseshoes.
In terms of Miller’s golf game itself, the golfer they learned from was someone who idolized Nicklaus’ drive. Miller also fashioned his game and his swing, after golf legend Tom Watson.
Long after he took divots out of his parents’ Arvada yard hitting Wiffle balls with his first set of irons, Miller perfected his own swing. He modeled it after Watson’s image on the television. The swing took him from playing on the University of Colorado team to a competitive tenure at Colorado Section PGA events. Between the ages of 28-40 he played his best golf, before, at 50, he began playing at the state’s PGA Senior events. Throughout it all he took pride in consistently finishing in the top 25% of the field.
Stanton grew close to Miller and his family ever since his son Corey and Miller’s son Brett were born. The two families were tight-knit for years, as Stanton described the Millers, including Erroll’s wife Sue and their younger son Sean — who is now a golf pro himself — as a loving yet competitive family. Miller also gave back, namely to the Summit Foundation.
During his time as golf pro was able to live out his childhood golf dreams. That included one time about a decade ago when Nicklaus’ legendary rival Arnold Palmer was in town for a wedding. After playing Breckenridge Golf Club, Palmer told Miller he wished he would have won the bid for the course. But Palmer said Nicklaus did a great job with it.
So did Miller. As he embarks on the next phase of his life, there is a dream foursome he’d like to play with. And it’s at the same course where Watson had his “chip of destiny” to edge Nicklaus in 1982 for the U.S. Open title.
“A Pebble Beach vacation, without a doubt,” Miller said. “After seeing the U.S. Open last year there, to be able to play there with my family, that’s the first thing on the bucket list.”
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