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SMGA plays StoneTree, SVGC Eagle Vines; PGA update

By Richard Davison (Special to the Index-Tribune)

With the official start of spring just a month away, both the Sonoma Men’s Golf Association and the Sonoma Valley Golf Club are kicking their seasons into gear.

The Sonoma Men’s Golf Association made its way into Marin and played the StoneTree Golf Club on Feb. 13, taking advantage of some clear weather after the storm that brought much-needed water to the area, with the 24 members who made the trip rewarded with a course that was in good shape and had fast greens.

Leading the way in the net division was Al Rappoport with a fine round of 70; followed two shots back by Tom Martin’s 72; while Ron Sharek’s 75 was good enough for third place; Kay Groft took fourth with a 76; and Chuck Lee and Phil Rollins tied for fifth with a 77 each.

In the gross division, Woody Frink’s 80 was good enough to take the top spot, while Martin Bajuk’s 85 earned him second place.

The difficult group of par-3s proved to be no match for those that teed it up in closest-to-the-hole action, with Mike Gauthier mastering the third hole with a shot to 8 feet, 7 inches.

Sharek conquered the canyon that lies between the tee and the green of the tricky eighth, with his ball coming to rest 9-2 away.

Lee hit the shot of the day on the water-guarded 10th hole, with a laser-like approach to just 3-7, while Karl Mayer made his presence known with a shot to 24-8 on the 17th.

The SMGA has two good venues coming up in the next few weeks, with Rooster Run on March 2, and Silverado’s south course on March 16.

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The Sonoma Valley Golf Club returned to its home course of Eagle Vines in Napa for its first event of the year on Feb. 11.

In the first flight, Barry Robertson toured the fairways and greens with a round of 73, good enough for first place; followed by Jun Jasareno’s second-place 74; while the crafty south-paw Jim Schnabel grabbed third with his round of 75.

Scores dropped for the second flight with Lou Pignati firing a 65 for top honors; with Bud Schuerman and Wayne Coronel matching cards with 67s, before Schuerman took second and Coronel third in a card-off.

The third flight saw scores take another dip, with Ernie Loveless having the round of the day with a 63; followed by John Fanucchi’s 64 for second; while Mike Cox finished third with a 66.

In closest-to-the-pin action, playing from the white tees, Bob Clair claimed the honors on the downhill sixth with a shot to just 4 feet.

Ron Sharek showed his consistent game was back for another year with a shot to 10 feet, 8 inches on the difficult eighth.

Jerry Van Wallinga opened his season with a shot to 20-5 on the 12th, while Jim Ansel found the 15th to his liking with a shot to 6- 1.

Playing from the gold tees, Dan Stites’ shot to 26-7 on the sixth was good enough, while John Muncy garnered top honors on No. 8 with a shot to 12-5.

Harry Tistle joined the party on the 12th, his ball coming to rest 14-10 away, and Mick Merenda’s shot to 5 feet on the 15th was worthy of a prize.

The red tees saw John Richards fire a shot to 13-1 on the sixth, while no one could find the green on the eighth from that tee. Chuck Harris found the 12th to his liking with a shot to 14-10, while the shot of the day was reserved for John Murphy on the 15th, his ball tracking the flag and stopping just 3-11 from the hole.

The SVGC is still recruiting members and is open to anyone who would like to join.

Events take place twice a month at Eagle Vines in nearby Napa/American Canyon, as well as six away events throughout the season.

Membership rates vary from $30 for existing NCGA members up to $60 for new members. For more information, contact Jack Powers at 996-0109 or Dan Stites at 996-6829.

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This week will see the Accenture Match Play Championship take place outside Tucson, Ariz., with 64 of the best players in the world trying to take home the first World Golf Championship of 2014.

When it was created in 1999, it was one of the must-play events on the PGA Tour schedule, but 15 years later, three of the top-four in the world have not even made the trip to the desert to try and take home the Walter Hagen Cup.

With the lack of star-power over the last few years, tournament sponsor Accenture has pulled the plug after this year, a big blow to the PGA Tour as it was the only sponsor the tournament has ever known.

Many involved point to the golf course as being the main reason many stay away, despite being eligible for an event that guarantees you $48,000 even if you lose in the first round.

For Northern California golf fans, this might not be such bad news, as the rumor mill now suggests that the tournament might look for a new home, and that new home could possibly be Harding Park Golf Club in San Francisco.

Harding is currently undergoing green renovations on all 18 greens, and the PGA Tour agronomists are overseeing the work.

The 2009 President’s Cup was a huge success at the venue, so match-play works on the classic course, even if the routing of the course is changed somewhat.

In addition, the players to a man praised the golf course when they were here for both the American Express Championship in 2005, and then again for the President’s Cup in 2009.

The only remaining piece of the puzzle is a tournament sponsor; could a Northern California company come to the forefront and want the event in their backyard?

Longtime Champions Tour flagship sponsor Charles Schwab would be a good match, especially with chairman Charles Schwab having a close relationship with many tour players, including Phil Mickelson, who hasn’t played the event in many moons.

The Tour doesn’t like to have a tournament without a sponsor for very long, so look for an announcement on the future of the event in the very near future, and let’s hope that Harding gets the nod.

It would be nice to have the best players in the world on our doorstep once again.