Agostini on Golf: River Oaks celebrates junior-golf anniversary

ragostini@modbee.comApril 29, 2014 

The beginning of River Oaks’ popular junior golf program, entering its 20th year, can be traced to a single check.

It was written by Bob Hopkins, a low-handicap local golfer now deceased, who walked to Greg Silva’s door with his check in hand and a message.

“Here’s $100,” Hopkins told Silva. “Go and start a foundation in your father’s name for junior golf.”

Greg Silva, who was still grieving at the time over the 1991 death of his father Andy Silva – the man who headed golf in the City of Modesto from 1954 to ‘85 – knew exactly what to do.

He started the Andy Silva Memorial Foundation, which has assisted junior golfers for 22 years. Then, Silva kicked off what has become a respected grass-roots junior program that has benefited more than 5,000 kids.

“We wanted to bring junior golf back to this area,” Silva said. “It’s still the best thing in town.”

The price used to be right – as in free – for the first seven years of the River Oaks program. Since then, it’s still a wonderful buy:

The beginner level, which costs $45, offers seven classes over a three-week period, plus unlimited range balls Monday through Friday. For $65, intermediates receive the seven classes, the range balls plus free access to the front nine. Advanced students get the same, plus 18-hole access for $85. A SNAG class for 5-7 year-olds also is available for $30. Also covered are rules and etiquette.

“I have a lot of praise for what The First Tee has done, but we’ve been here for 20 years,” Silva said. “We brought it back to this area.”

Volunteers such as Dennis Oliveira, Gary Ard and Bob Schmidt have assisted every year. They provided the early guidance for such talent as Ryan Thornberry and Andrew Moren (Cal State Stanislaus), Christine Uhalde (Fresno State) and Julianna Uhrik (Oregon State).

More important, River Oaks introduced golf, the lifetime game, to thousands during countless summer days. Proponents such as Silva and the late River Oaks owner Rob Phipps kept it going.

It reaches its milestone anniversary with two upcoming sessions: June 10-July 2, and July 8-30. A free tournament caps the program for all entries. Call Silva, 667-7272.

The Shag Bag – Coming up: The 38th annual Manteca City Golf Championship, to be held May 10-11 at Manteca Park. The $50 fee includes a free practice round. Call 825-2500. ...The Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, won by 17-year-old Lydia Ko last weekend, reportedly will return to Lake Merced CC in Daly City next year. That’s good news for fans who had gone without an LPGA Tour stop in the Bay Area in 3 1/2 years. A nice crowd attended the final round on Sunday though the Warriors and the Giants were both playing home games. Lake Merced proved to be a first-class venue and reminded some pros of a Women’s U.S. Open site.

Holes-in-one – Dave Jones, Escalon, 132-yard 11th at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 7-iron. ... Bob Whitaker, Stockton, 126-yard eighth at Jack Tone, 8-iron.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at or (209) 578-2302. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeSports.

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