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2017 executive golf guide: Chief justice on the tee

Colorado courts boss Nancy Rice mixes golf and business whenever she can


Colorado courts boss Nancy Rice mixes golf and business whenever she can.

The chief justices of all 22 of Colorado’s judicial districts know what to expect when they see the email from the office of Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy Rice.

Her Honor is coming to town, the email will tell them. She would like to meet with the judges and key members of the district’s judicial branch, it says. Oh, and then she’d like to wrap up with a round of golf – could you please arrange a foursome?

“I don’t know exactly how they do it, but people end up showing up and I always get a game and it’s always fun,” Rice said over the phone from her Denver offices. “I go out, do my song and dance with the local bar association, with the judges, but then I’ll play one of the local courses.”

Often her hosts recruit a talented female golfer to keep her company. That’s how Rice got to play golf with the Alamosa High School girls team, and with a female college golfer who happened to be a probation officer in Burlington. More typically, though, she’s playing golf with three men who work for her.

And all the rounds, she says, begin the same way. “I just say, ‘Look, this whole Chief Justice thing is too much of a mouthful. Let’s just be Nancy, Joe and Fred, whoever,’“ she said. “They’re really happy to do that. It’s easier for them, too. Then we just play."

“For me, the job is to make people not feel intimidated by me. I’m an authority figure in their world, so the burden is on me to make sure everybody is really comfortable and having a good time.

It’s probably a different world than a lot of women have.”

Rice, 66, grew up with parents who played plenty of golf at Lakewood’s semi-private Fox Hollow Golf Course. But she preferred squash and tennis, until her body suggested a change.

“About 20 years ago, I fell in love with golf,” said Rice, who has played locally, mostly at Fox Hollow, Broken Tee and Pradera. “There are so many skills, and it’s so different from driving to putting to chipping that it really keeps my interest. It’s fun to travel around and play different courses. I like that you can play with people of different abilities and it doesn’t make much of a difference. I like being outside. It’s great when you’re playing well, and it’s not so awful when you’re not.”

Rice’s handicap has risen with her responsibilities; once a 13, she now plays to a 17.7 and plays wherever she can. Her philosophy about these outings provides food for thought for other CEOs considering golf with their underlings.

“I’m rarely there to make a deal in the classic business sense,” she said. “I’m there to build relationships. There are about 4,000 of us and I’m at the top. From my perspective, it’s really important to be encouraging, to be positive, to be inquisitive, to learn as much from them as possible, to hear what they have to say as opposed to talking to them, because everybody knows what I think.

"That’s how I try to use these times.”

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Susan Fornoff

Susan Fornoff has covered U.S. Opens and the Masters for the San Francisco Chronicle, written two golf books and founded GottaGoGolf.com, a website and newsletter for women golfers. She recently relocated to Littleton, and hopes to play all of Colorado’s 10 toughest golf courses – from the most forward tees.

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