Be a 'Divine 9' Writer

By: Blaine Newnham

To what lengths does a group of golf courses promote themselves, especially living in the shadow of the fancy resort courses around Lake Tahoe? Find out for yourself. And then write about it. This is a so-you-want-to-be-a-golf writer contest.

In collaboration with the, nine courses south of Reno and east of Lake Tahoe, the so-called Divine 9, are sponsoring a contest for would-be golf writers. You know, the job we all want - playing golf and getting paid to write about it.

The deadline to sign up is September 23. For contest rules, visit What they're asking for is 250-500 words describing your favorite golf trip.

The winner, as judged by a panel, will get $500 in prize money, plus a paid-for assignment (October 3-5) to Carson City, Nev., for the annual Divine 9 "death march." All the perks are there: rental car, free lodging, dinners and a chance to stay over and play more golf.

Death march? I call it that because I did it. You spend an 11-hour day visiting nine courses and playing two of each facility's most memorable holes. The van is well-stocked against the morning chill and afternoon fatigue.

In the dead of one winter, the publicity folks came up with the crazy notion of playing all nine courses in one day. Well, not all the holes. But two holes on each course. "We realized, once we got together as a group," said Jim Keppler, then the pro at Eagle Valley, "that as resort courses go we were as inexpensive as any place in the country. The question was, how do we promote our properties."

Even though for vacation purposes the courses are close together - within 20 minutes or so apart - the nine courses in one day was a considerable logistical undertaking. We needed Eisenhower to organize our invasion; instead, we got Phil Weidinger, the zany Stateline, Nev., publicist who hatched the plot in the first place.

We would start at Empire Ranch, then on to Dayton Valley and Eagle Valley. We finally hit the high-end courses at Genoa - called Lakes and Resort - which were as pretty as advertised. Those courses sport near-$100 green fees in the highest of seasons, but for the most part these are splendid every-man venues that can all be played for $295 with a special card called "Tickets to Paradise."

I liked most of them. The Carson Valley Country Club was Old World golf, winding between ancient cottonwood trees and alongside the Carson River, a course that made up in charm what it lacked in challenge. The place felt right to me.

Silver Oak has a beautiful setting up against the mountains, and Sunridge, designed by its owner, is as spectacular as it's slippery with all the side-hill lies.

There's no doubting the appeal of Carson Valley's courses. Unlike the layouts near Tahoe, which are lucky to have a six-month season, the lower and more arid courses near Carson are open nearly 10 months a year. They are also close to gambling, of course, and don't require winning a jackpot to afford them.

"You can play all of our courses for what they charge for one day of golf at some of the courses in Las Vegas," said Keppler, who also said late fall is the very best time tackle the Divine 9. "The weather is beautiful and most of the locals are out killing animals. They like to do that."

Sounds like the lead to a story.

Blaine Newnham has covered golf for 50 years. He still cherishes the memory of following Ben Hogan for 18 holes during the first round of the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He worked then for the Oakland Tribune, where he covered the Oakland Raiders during the first three seasons of head coach John Madden. Blaine moved on to Eugene, Ore., in 1971 as sports editor and columnist, covering the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He covered five Olympics all together - Mexico City, Munich, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Athens - before retiring in early 2005 from the Seattle Times. He covered his first Masters in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman, and his last in 2005 when Tiger Woods chip dramatically teetered on the lip at No. 16 and rolled in. He saw Woods' four straight major wins in 2000 and 2001, and Payne Stewart's par putt to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. In 2005, Blaine received the Northwest Golf Media Association's Distinguished Service Award. He and his wife, Joanna, live in Indianola, Wash., where the Dungeness crabs outnumber the people.

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