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Carson City/Carson Valley Golf: 2 Holes at a Time

By Ted Johnson, Contributing Writer

Minden, NV (Sports Network) - It sounded simple to me - nine courses, two holes each, for a total of 18 holes in one day. No one told me at the end of the day I'd have to be woken from an exhaustion-induced coma and dragged off the bus.

For that matter, no one mentioned that the bus came loaded with enough beers to fuel a frat party, nor the Bloody Marys and margaritas during the food breaks on the courses, or the shot of whiskey - what else? - in the oldest bar west of the Mississippi.

It's called the Divine 9 Road Trip, but there's little divinity involved. The 12th annual version, held earlier this month, tested the golf skills and 'athleticism' of 11 members of the media, all in the effort to show off the courses and local flavor of the Carson Valley, about 30 miles east of South Lake Tahoe. All the courses can be viewed at www.divine9.com, and organizers hope to grow the event next year to allow the public the opportunity to sample this unique experience. There's also a more traditional route to follow, a Ticket To Paradise, which provides a round of 18 at all nine courses throughout the year for the first 300 to pony up $265.

It started the night prior in a rather civilized proceeding at the Tahoe Ridge Winery Tasting Room and Bistro with hors d'oeuvres and wines. Then it evolved. Over to Carson Valley Inn across the street to check out the multi-million dollar renovation. Did we mention blackjack and slots, before calling it a night/morning at the new Holiday Inn Express?

It's not quite the Animal House Golf Tour, but it's not lunch at the Royal & Ancient, either. "Like I want all of you to try to remember this moment..." pointed out Broadcast Boy I (Garrett Dearborn, weekend anchor at KTVN TV, CBS, Reno) as we headed to the second course, then pausing for dramatic effect." ...about four hours from now."

The rules are simple: Get on the bus at 7 a.m., following a wake-up breakfast at 6 a.m. with a beleaguered group at Katie's at Carson Valley Inn, be at the first course, The Lakes at Genoa Lakes, shortly thereafter, load bags onto carts, drive out to the designated holes and start playing. No warm-ups, no range balls, no complaining.

The putting for money hex. (He missed.)
Not that you'd find this crew of golfers on any Ryder Cup team. With names like Ballgame, Dinger, Snowshoe, Aces, Big-Time Vince, Radioman, Broadcast Boy I and Broadcast Boy II, you got what it sounded like: baggy shorts, untucked shirts, fast swings and faster quips.

Don "Snowshoe" Thompson (in honor of local legend "Snowshoe" Thompson who carted mail over the Sierra Nevada peaks about 135 years ago) has a tee game best described as diminutive. (Short works, too.) But there he was at the 18th hole of the Resort Course at Genoa Lakes, 576 yards long, bunkers right, water left by the green. Play from the white tees? No way.

"I don't want any favors just because I'm 80 bleepin' years old," Snowshoe said as he waddled to the tee box.

Once the two holes were finished, it was back to the bus to load up and head to the next course, Empire Ranch, a 27-hole layout known for value and birdie- ability. Scores were tallied, as was an ongoing lost ball count. Needless to say, some found the routine difficult, but scores on each hole were capped at 8, which kept up the pace of play.

But then, even Tiger Woods might find it a tad challenging to walk off the bus, cold beer in hand, eight more times and to face 90-degree temperatures, and then head out to another par-3 of 165 yards over water. The local charm made it worth the effort.

At Dayton Valley, the fourth course, play improved, perhaps due to the staff putting out a Mexican-themed snack of taquitos, chips and salsa and a morning margarita. It took place around a large table on the front tee box of the seventh hole. After the respite, we went back to the blue tees and sent our shots over the food and drink.

From unloading clubs to re-loading on the bus, each stop lasted about 60 minutes - some longer, some less. And there was the transition time between courses. Thanks to the beers and the on-the-bus verbal jousting, time flew by.

On some courses the group split in half and rotated on the two holes. At Eagle Valley East, then West, it turned into a rolling ten-man onslaught of errant shots, yelling and swearing, all punctuated by bursts of laughter. It took only two holes before someone was hit, courtesy of John "Radioman" Hamilton's soft chip shot gently landing on my calf. No harm, no foul, just more ammo for the bus. Stops followed at Silver Oak, then Sunridge, where water came into play on three of four and more balls were sacrificed to the gods.

Wayward souls at The 19th hole.
The course operators work together so that there is minimal interference to the golfing public, but five or six carts cutting across fairways (sort of a rolling Circus of Hacks) does attract attention. "We thought it was a big skins game," said Ed Bischoff of Dayton, who came out to see what the excitement was about. "We just came out to see what you were all doing."

As the hours mounted, the beer count climbed higher, as did - understandably so - the scores. "Just give me a couple of 8s," slurred Dearborn as we headed to the final course, Carson Valley in Carson City. "I'm just trying to be realistic."

The bogeys, double-bogeys and "dreaded others" easily outnumbered the pars, but there were five birdies, with at least four other easy birdie chances missed. Putting suffered because the "On The Green" cocktail party superceded golf etiquette. There was one eagle, thanks to a short chip in from the front of the green, but the group lost 47 balls in all (just short of 4.5 per person).

By the end of the day, when the temperature peaked above 90 and the beer count was close to the same figure, the bus stopped at the Genoa Bar in Genoa. Founded in 1863, it has the same dusty floor and dark-wood bar you'd expect to find in old Nevada. It also has Raquel Welch's bra dangling on deer antlers on the back wall. A host of whiskey it had to be. Whiskey it was.

From there, it was off to Carson Valley and its 100-year-old cottonwoods and small greens. After the two holes to complete the round of 18 in just over 11 hours, the competition continued with a headlights-illuminated putting contest in front of the Carson Valley course. From there it was a 20-step walk to what is perhaps the country's leading Basque restaurant, the Carson Valley clubhouse. Potato leek soup, lingua stew, roasted garlic on soft white bread and perfectly grilled steak and salmon concluded the 14-hour-long excursion.

"It's time to get off the bus," someone said. Indeed. Back to reality.

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