More Rocky Employees Head For the Exit

The exodus from the Rocky Mountain News and its affiliates continues at such a dizzying pace that the front door is in danger of flying off its hinges. Among the recent departees is Travis Henry, the editor of, whose farewell piece, published on March 20, reveals that he's accepted a position at, where he'll help the Phil Anschutz-owned operation "build a nationwide network of local community news Web sites." Assistant Internet Producer Ryan Stark is leaving as well, as is a much more veteran member of the Rocky staff: Randy Holtz, a sports writer who joined the paper during Ronald Reagan's first term.

Here's the memo bidding farewell to Holtz and Stark, complete with excerpts from some favorite Holtz stories from the past:

Everyone: I wanted to let you know that Randy Holtz, a Rocky staffer for 26 years and our resident college hoops hot-shot, has resigned. Randy joined the Rocky in 1982 and has most recently been on the CSU beat. Randy is an exceptionally talented writer. And come March Madness, Randy would kick in and write stories and prepare clever charts and opine in typical Holtz fashion – which is articulate and funny and witty - on radio shows and for TV interviewers across the nation. His bracket was always the one to beat. Randy, a MIzzou journalism grad, covered 21 NCAA Final Fours, four Super Bowls, two Stanley Cup Finals and an Olympics. He’s a native of St. Louis, a big Cardinals fan and the very proud father of Garrett, a CU-Boulder theater grad. Before arriving at the Rocky, Randy was a sports reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Randy leaves to try his hand at the freedom of freelance. We wish him all the best. One of my favorite stories by Randy – an award-winner for him - chronicled the tale of the DU professor who hit the longest hole-in-one ever recorded in America. Or did he? Here’s the top of Randy’s story.

They all thought he was a wacko, a weirdo, a nut.

A lot of them still do.

Mike Crean wonders about it himself, thinks about it every day, looks in the mirror and tries to find reassuring signs of sanity.

This weekend marks the second anniversary of a milestone event many followers of golf still believe is impossible. An hour or so before dusk July 4, 2002, on the ninth hole of Green Valley Ranch Golf Club near Denver International Airport, the University of Denver real estate professor cranked up his Big Bertha driver and hit what officially is listed as the longest hole-in-one in American history.

The ace on the 517-yard par-5 hole - not a typo there, that's five hundred seventeen - is recognized by the U.S. Golf Register as the longest ace. Crean and his three playing partners signed sworn affidavits that the ball went in the hole, and the Louisiana-based Register, which the U.S. Golf Association endorses as the official clearinghouse for holes-in-one, accepted the oddity as fact.

The rub? The hole, which has a slight dogleg caused by a swath of marshy wetlands, is so long, no one saw it go in.

What Crean - he's a 4-handicapper who lives on the 14th fairway of The Ranch Country Club in Westminster and has recorded six holes-in-one - knows for sure is this:

After he and his three partners searched in vain for his ball for about a half-hour, he brought out another ball, took a drop and hit a 250-yard iron shot onto the green.

As Crean and his friends walked onto the green, he saw a ball in the hole. His ball, a Lady Precept 00-MC, a ball designed for women that many male long hitters used at the time, a souvenir that now sits enshrined in a modified Czechoslovakian wine glass in Crean's den.

Crean, who routinely drives the ball 250 to 300 yards, was so dumbfounded, so befuddled, so little-boy excited, he called his playing partner and friend, Kay St. John, by his former wife's name.

From that point, Crean was a man on a mission. He spent the better part of a year trying to prove to himself the hole-in-one never happened. He couldn't.

Did he do it? Did it really go in? Did that little white orb really travel those 517 yards to the 41/4-inch-wide hole?

Therein lies the mystery. Call it Mike's Mystery. Or call it Mike's Miracle.

And here’s the lede of a piece he wrote heading into March Madness, a typical Holtz piece that combined years of expertise with just the right touch of irreverence:

For 23 years now, I have attempted to burrow inside the craniums of the NCAA Tournament selection committee members and predict which teams they will anoint with precious tickets to this thing called The Big Dance. I have even been in their shoes, sort of, acting as a mock committee member last year at the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis.

Doesn't matter. This is like getting your teeth pulled by your crazy uncle with no Novocain. It's painful. It has become more of a guessing game every year, even the well-conceived educated guesses often proving to be just that - guesses.

But I press on, secure in the knowledge that the endless spewing by so-called bracketologists on television have no more basis in fact than my own mental meanderings.

The thing is, the real NCAA committee has all the results in hand when it makes its choices and unveils the bracket, this year on March 16. I have to project how bubble teams will do down the stretch and in their conference tournaments because my picks always come out just before the very first of the Division I conference tourneys begin.

That, and I have to pick the conference tourney winners in far-flung, little-known, one-berth leagues that don't see a television camera all season.

As wildly unpredictable as the college game has become, having two weeks of yet-to-be-played games affecting your picks is an invitation to look like a buffoon.

But here we go again, with a square jaw and a stiff upper lip.

Enjoy the Madness, people.

Also leaving is Assistant Internet Producer Ryan Stark. Ryan and his wife are moving to Atlanta, where she will attend Emery University. Ryan shared the late-night/early-morning enhancing shift with Caleb Kropf, and we all know what an inimitable duo they have been. Good luck to Ryan.

In case you're curious, plenty of people continue to work at the Rocky. But these days, the corridors are a lot less crowded than they once were. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts