Contest winner's trip report: The Carson Valley/Carson City Divine Nine Media Tour

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 31, 2011, 4:56 pm

Winner of the Carson Valley/Carson City Divine Nine Golf Channel writing contest, avid golfer Mike Moore (shown on the left and far right with Dennis Miller from ACES Magazine) had the chance to participate in the infamous Divine Nine Media Tour: Two holes on nine different golf courses throughout Carson Valley in one day. Sounds crazy? It was. Here is his dispatch: 

CARSON VALLEY, Nev. -- Maybe it was the 6am wake-up call, no practice swings, no stretches. Maybe it was the 48 degrees. Maybe it was little sleep after the trip from Houston to Nevada’s state capital. Perhaps it was nerves – you know, being the only non-media guy of 15 in the group. Whatever it was, my first swing of the day was a miss, a strike, a pure scalp, a 5-inch divot parallel to the ball – a Titleist that stayed perched atop the tee, unmoved by my swing or my plight. 

Welcome to the Divine 9 Media Tour in Carson City/Carson Valley, Nevada. This was my first trip here, but the 12th annual rendition of an event that invites media to play two holes at nine different courses in eleven hours to promote the area’s golf variety, quality and fun factor to visitors and locals. 

I’m standing on the 16th tee of the Genoa Lakes Resort Course, a par-3 of 149 yards overlooking what locals refer to as “the mighty Carson Valley” when I whiffed.  I’m here as the winner of a writing contest, a national promotion inviting traveling golf writer wannabes an expense paid trip and a $500 stipend to chronicle this offbeat, Wild West assignment. My winning entry was a short story about my first golf trip to Scotland years ago. This affair definitely broke with any of the game’s long-held traditions. 

Media from throughout Northern California and Nevada piled onto the shuttle bus at the Gold Dust West Casino Hotel in Carson City, our host hotel. The night before we were feted to a civilized welcome reception with representatives from the local visitors bureau, the hotel and golf courses. How could I have known then what was to come? 

We had 15 gentlemen on the bus and a very large ice chest. The only woman cancelled the night prior, which upon further review may have been a blessing – for her! When all 15 played the same hole at the same time at Eagle Valley West, I got a bit nervous. That’s also when I started to flinch. 

The route throughout the Carson City/Carson Valley area would cover approximately 90 miles with stops for two holes at each course: Genoa Lakes Resort and Lakes Courses, Carson Valley, Sunridge, Eagle Valley West and East, Silver Oak, Empire Ranch and Dayton Valley

“All right turns,” said Phil Weidinger, whose PR firm organizes the venture for the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Carson Valley Visitors Authority and Chamber of Commerce. “We’re burning daylight and gotta make it quick.” 

We also stopped for lunch at Carson Valley Inn in Minden, Nevada to make a deli sandwich and have a drink. Did I mention drinks? The magic ice chest: always full, a “welcome” Bloody Mary at our second stop, the  5-hour energy drink after our last course at J’s, a tony restaurant in Dayton, prior to dinner and more drinks at Ole Ole, the South of the Border pride of Gold Dust West, conveniently located just about 20 paces from their bowling alley. 

This is Nevada, the Silver State, where slots and morals are sometimes loose, and where Mark Twain, who started his writing career here is purported to have said, “Everything is legal here – as long as you don’t frighten the horses.” 

Many courses had carts waiting on side streets to accommodate quicker play. Rules said to pick-up at 8, that there wasn’t enough time to watch that many bad shots. We were whisked from course to course, averaging 50 minutes at each, with players greeted by friendly staff eager to impress. 

The valley courses presented holes with a striking variety and challenge.  Each provided their own personality from the family-friendly and award winning Carson Valley, the oldest in the region; to Dayton Valley, a site for US Open Qualifying for 16 consecutive years with its impeccable greens; to the birdie friendly layouts of Empire Ranch and Eagle Valley East; to 63 acres of water at Sunridge; to scenic Genoa Lakes, a championship layout with views to match; to the target golf of Eagle Valley West; the views of Carson City from the peaks of Silver Oak,  I quickly fell in love with this scenic, high desert paradise located just 30 minutes from Lake Tahoe and Reno. It was all there: rolling hills, trees, rivers with a backdrop of the spectacular Sierra Nevada as the highlight. 

Hole in one

Don Marchand (above), a sports talk show host at ESPN radio in Reno, aced the 159-yard, par 3, No. 4 at Sunridge, a carry of 150 yards over water. It was a first in the tour’s history. That he used a yellow ball “just in case” resulted in unmerciful teasing. The water theme repeated itself at many courses, along with forced carries over barrancas. 

Bill Henderson, long time marketing director at Carson Valley Inn and the man credited with this format, smiled and said, “We just wanted to make it memorable for you.” Our 18-hole course included seven par 3s, six par 5s and five par 4s, totaling 6,419 yards. The Northern Nevada Golf Association even provided an official rating and slope at 70.1/119. I guess Twain was right! 

For a golfing good time, this area is hard to beat – an eclectic selection of courses from championship caliber tournament layouts to the family friendly with accommodations and local attractions for most interests with a doff of the cowboy hat to old west history. They even have the Virginia & Truckee Railroad running along its original route between Carson and Virginia City, where the Mother Lode was struck in the 1800s. The Divine 9 offers packages throughout the year for individuals and groups. for details. 

Most of the guys shot in the 90s with the generous rules; I rallied after that opening swing for a 95 and hit some decent shots considering the format and decorum. I was even interviewed by Dina Kupfer, sports anchor at KRNV, Reno's NBC affiliate.

When the day mercifully ended in the gloaming, backs were tight but quips were loose. Scores didn’t matter – it was about the experience and that included 1 eagle, 3 birdies, 68 beers, 6 sports drinks, 15 Bloody Marys, 28 waters, one crazy format and one great time. 

Whan details LPGA changes for 2018 and beyond

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 8:56 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The Race to the CME Globe’s season-long series and its big-bang finish at the CME Group Tour Championship are secured for another six years.

Tour commissioner Mike Whan announced a contract extension with CME Group through 2023 in his annual state-of-the-tour address Thursday at the Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club.

Whan also outlined changes to next year’s tournament schedule and detailed specifics of the revamp of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament, with a new Q-School Series devised as the final stage beginning next year.

Highlights from Whan’s address:

Extending the CME Race . . .

The Race to the CME Globe, a season-long competition for a $1 million jackpot, will be played at least six more years, with Whan announcing a contract extension through 2023.

“We’re pretty excited about that,” Whan said.

The LPGA is also close to finalizing details that will keep the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club.

2018 schedule will include two new West Coast events . . .

The LPGA is likely going to lose three events next year, but it will gain three new ones, leaving the tour with 34 events, including the UL International Crown. That’s the same number of events being played this year. Total prize money is expected to reach $69 million, up from the record $65 million played for this season.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

The Manulife LPGA Classic in Canada is off next year’s schedule, and the Lorena Ochoa Match Play also is not expected to return. The McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open is not returning, but only because it is sliding off the schedule to move up early on the 2019 schedule.

Whan said two new West Coast events are being added, and they will be positioned on the calendar next to the Lotte Championship in Hawaii, to give players more reasons to stay out west.

Whan said there’s also a new international event being added to the schedule, but details of the new events won’t be released until the full schedule is released sometime after Thanksgiving.

“I hope you’ll agree that stability and predictability haven’t always been the calling card of the LPGA, but it has been the last few years,” Whan said. “I’m proud to tell you that the revenues of the LPGA in the last five or six years are up almost 90 percent. We have added 20 title sponsors and over 20 official marketing partners in the last five or six years. Don’t know too many sports that could claim that.”

Q-School officially overhauled . . .

Whan said the LPGA Qualifying Tournament will still be played in three stages next year, but the final stage will get a makeover as the Q-School Series.

The LPGA will continue to host first and second stages, but instead of a five-round final stage, there will be an eight-round finals series, with two four-round tournaments scheduled in back-to-back weeks in the same city, with cumulative scores used over eight rounds. The new Q-Series site will be announced early next year.

A field of 108 will make the Q-Series finals, with 40 to 50 LPGA tour cards up for grabs.

The Q-Series field will be filled by players finishing 101st to 150th on the LPGA money list, players finishing 31st to 50th on the Symetra Tour money list, with up to 10 players from among the top 75 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings who don’t have LPGA membership. Also, the field will include the top five in the Golfweek Sagarin College Rankings. The rest of the field will be filled by players advancing through Q-School’s second stage, which could be anywhere from 23 to 33 players, depending how many from the world rankings and college rankings choose to go to the Q-Series.

Ryu, S.H. Park among winners at Rolex awards

By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 5:51 pm

NAPLES, Fla. – The Rolex Player of the Year and Vare Trophy winners won’t be determined until Sunday’s finish of the CME Group Tour Championship, but seven other awards were presented Thursday during the LPGA’s Rolex Awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort.

The awards and winners:

William and Mousie Powell Award – Katherine Kirk won an award given to the player “whose behavior and deeds best exemplify the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA.” Kirk won the Thornberry Classic this year, her third LPGA title. “Some people ask me if I feel obligated to give back to the game,” Kirk said. “I think it’s a privilege.”

Heather Farr Perseverance Award – Tiffany Joh, who had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma earlier this year, thanked the Farr family and all those who supported Joh through her diagnosis and recovery.

“I found a great quote from Ram Dass, `We are all just walking each other home,’” Joh said. “I’ve really come to understand the value of all my relationships, no matter how fleeting or profound they seem.”

The Commissioner’s Award – Roberta Bowman, outgoing chair of the LPGA Board of Directors, was honored for her service the last six years. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan called her “my friend, my boss and my hero.” Bowman deflected the praise for her back on to the tour, thanking Whan, LPGA staff, players, sponsors, fans and the media.

“The world needs more role models for little girls,” Bowman said. “And they don’t need to look much farther than the LPGA.”

Ellen Griffin Rolex Award and Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award – Sandy LaBauve, who founded the LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf program, was honored as the first person to win both these awards.

The Griffin Award honors golf teachers and the Lopez Award honors an LPGA professional who emulates the values Lopez demonstrated. LaBauve is the daughter of Jack and Sherry Lumpkin, both teachers of the game.

“This program doesn’t belong to me,” LaBauve said of LPGA-Girls’ Golf. “I merely planted the seed. The fruit belongs to all of us.”

Rolex Annika Major Award – So Yeon Ryu won the award, named for Annika Sorenstam, for the best overall performance in women’s major championships this year. She won the ANA Inspiration and tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open.

“It’s such an honor to win an award named after Annika Sorenstam,” Ryu told Sorenstam during the presentation. “It’s a special award for me.”

Rolex Rookie of the Year Award – Sung Hyun Park won the honor, telling the audience in a message translated from Korean that she was disappointed failing to win the KLPGA’s Rookie of the Year Award and was grateful for a dream come true getting the chance to win it on the LPGA.

Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

DP World Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the DP World Tour Championship

Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

Joel Dahmen had a 64.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.