A Divine 9
The alarm clock started buzzing at 5 a.m. last Tuesday. Way too early for anything, including golf. What on earth possessed me to agree to it I’ll never know.
It was the annual Divine 9 Tour which is sponsored by Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Carson Nugget, Pinion Plaza resort, Carson Valley Inn, Nevada Commission on Tourism, Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Bliss Mansion.
Golf writers, sports writers, TV sportscasters and travel writers from throughout Northern Nevada and California were invited to attend the event and extoll the virtues of playing golf in the Carson Valley in a unique way. Our host was the wise-cracking Phil Weidinger, who owns Weidinger Public Relations.
The one-day event includes playing two holes at each of the nine courses in the Carson Valley – Carson Valley Golf Course, Dayton Valley Golf Club, Eagle Valley East and West, Empire Ranch Golf Course, Genoa Lakes Golf Club, Sierra Nevada Golf Ranch, Silver Oak Golf Club and Sunridge Golf Club.
With some trepidation, I made the drive over to the Carson Valley Inn to catch the bus that would transport the 14 players to and from each course. Thank goodness I wasn’t the only one shaking the cobwebs out as I boarded the small bus.
I did see some friendly faces from the previous year – Vic Williams of Fairways and Greens magazine, Garrett Dearborn from KTVN in Reno, Dean Leisgang from KNRV in Reno and Dennis Miller and Tim Hunt, both of whom I knew from my days in the Bay Area.
6:57 a.m. – “Physically, this is the biggest group we’ve ever had,” Weidinger said, surveying the bus. “There’s some bulk on this bus.” I couldn’t swear to it, but I think his eyes lingered on Hunt, Miller and myself for a few extra seconds. It was the first of many Weidinger’s wisecracks during the 11-hour adventure.
“That guy should be a stand-up comedian,” I say to Miller. “Or a tour guide,” Miller shoots back.
7:12 a.m. – The bus pulls into Genoa Lakes. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes to get the bags off the bus and put onto carts for the first of many challenges.
7:40 a.m. – We play No. 12 (174-yard par-3) and No. 18 (449-yard par-4). Both are tough holes, and you have to go over water both times. Our group plays 18 first. Nobody is exactly chomping at the bit to hit, so I figure I might as well be the first to hit it into the water. The golf gods were smiling on me, however, as I blasted one about 250 and it was even straight. I finish the hole with a two-putt bogey, and I’m extremely thrilled.
8:10 a.m. – My tee shot on the par-3 lands in the hazard, and I finish with a triple-bogey. That’s par for the course. As Dearborn lines up a birdie putt, Leisgang, standing several feet behind him, starts to describe the action in a golf announcer’s voice. Garrett starts laughing so hard that he mis-hits the 20-foot putt and leaves it 10 feet short.
8:34 a.m. – Adam Brady, the PR man for the Northern California Golf Association, brings back a Bloody Mary for he and Miller. Let the fun begin.
8:55 a.m. – We pull into Sierra Nevada, and are whisked off to No’s 15 and 16, a pair of par-4s. On 15, I hit into two fairway traps and it took me two shots to get out of each one. Enough misery for me. I rebound on the next hole with a bogey.
“Give me the bad news,” Weidinger yells out.
“Ten on 15, five on 16,” I muttered.
“Maybe you should have picked up,” Weidinger said.
Miller started laughing, just waiting to zing me. “He did,” Miller said, much to everybody’s amusement on the bus. Weidinger failed at keeping a straight face.
10:22 – Weidinger announces that the group is officially behind schedule as the bus nears Empire Ranch.
I double-bogeyed the par-3 8th hole, again hitting into the hazard in front of the green.
As our group waits to hit on the par-5 9th, Paul Nelson, a cameraman for Dearborn, takes vicious practice swings. “Can you take those practice swings any closer to me?,” Dearborn asks his young cameraman, who found it tough to keep the ball in the fairways the entire day.
11:28 a.m. – We arrive at Eagle Valley, and the chance to play four straight holes was nice because you could build up some rhythm. Weidinger reminds everybody to take plenty of liquid refreshments because we are playing four holes and it’s starting to warm up. Beers, more than anything else, are yanked from the cooler on the bus.
We started on No. 12 on the West course, and had it not been for a three-putt green I would have had my first par. I got my first par on No. 13 when my chip shot stopped just six inches short of the pin. Cyndi McDonald, the head pro, compliments me on my swing. Our group heads over to the East course, and I par the par-5 505-yard 10th hole. On the par-3 12th, I again hit into a hazard and triple the hole. Can I just say I hate water?
1 p.m. – “We’re over halfway done,” Weidinger said, as everybody digs into their box lunch and devours the food like they haven’t been fed in months.
1:05 p.m. – The bus pulls out back onto 50 heading toward Dayton. We’re five minutes on the road, and Weidinger finally asks if everybody is there.
Candy Duncan from the Carson City Convention & Visitor’s Bureau is on the phone with the people at the Dayton course when Miller yells out “Tell them to get the girls ready.” Miller is referring to the three brothels in Mound House. Same old Dennis.
1:30 p.m. – We arrive at Dayton and are served champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. Jim Kepler, director of golf, talks about the new clubhouse and the new nine holes that are being added. Two more water holes – the par-3 163-yard sixth and the par-4 395-yard seventh. I hit my 7-wood into the water on No. 6 and triple it. What is it about par-3s over water? I avoid the water on No. 7, but my second shot lands under a tree and I take a double.
The beer is flowing freely as we head to Silver Oak. Weidinger is like a vendor at a ballpark they way he keeps hawking the various types of beer and soft drinks in the cooler. He doesn’t have to push hard. It’s been a long day and just warm enough to work up a good sweat. Dearborn and Leisgang talk a little shop in the back of the crowded bus, mostly about high school football.
2:50 p.m. – We arrive at Silver Oak. We play the third hole first, an uphill par-5 which measures 522 yards. Can I just say I hate this hole? My second shot goes out of bounds, and I end up with another double bogey. The story of my life. I double-bogey the par-3 7th because of my fourth three-putt of the round.
Dearborn, feeling no pain, is walking around asking people if they need hugs. You go Garrett.
4:15 p.m. – We pull into Sunridge. We start on the 624-yard par-5 11th. Bob Gee of Golf Today tees off and doesn’t even reach the women’s tee box.
“No more Fosters for me,” Gee said.
I hit three balls as hard as I can hit and still find myself 10 yards short of the green. I chip on and two putt for a well-earned bogey. I post a double-bogey on the par-4 339-yard 10th hole. Can I say that I hate this game?
Dearborn is the last on the bus, and takes some good-natured ribbing from the group. It’s been a long day, and everybody is in a hurry to finish before darkness falls.
Weidinger notes that Brady and Marc Squirey, the husband of San Francisco Chronicle reporter Susan Fornoff, are tied going into the last two holes. Brady gets up and hands a beer to Squirey, and the gamesmanship begins. The two agree to play the last two holes together.
6 p.m. – We arrive at Carson Valley Golf Club in Gardnerville. Brady and Squirey birdie the par-5 15th, and then retreat back to the 14th to finish their round. Brady wins because Squirey hits one OB.
It’s really starting to get dark now, and it’s even tough to pick up balls in the fairway as Nelson found out on the 14th hole. He never found his ball even though everybody in both groups saw it land in the fairway. I think I finished with two 6s and finished with either a 105 or 106. I truly didn’t care at that point, I was just glad to be done.
It’s been a grueling 11 1/2-hour day. I met some nice folks and renewed some old Bay Area friendships. I can’t wait until next year. Maybe I’ll break 100.
I have found, once again, that this area does offer some nice golf courses for all levels of play, and urge folks to get out there and play.
Darrell Moody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281.