Joel Kribel of Pleasanton was one of those supposedly "can't miss" players breaking into professional golf.
His credentials as an amateur sparkled: three-time All-American at Stanford (1997-99), U.S. Amateur runner-up ('97) and medalist at the Amateur ('98).
One decade later, Kribel has learned the hard lesson like hundreds of others in this every-man-for-himself exercise: There's no such thing as a "can't miss."
Kribel, 31, will be one of the most fascinating entries at the United Way Spring International, the Foster Farms-sponsored inaugural event of the 2008 Canadian Tour, to be held next week at Del Rio Country Club.
As a pro, Kribel has bounced up and down various tours, winning the pro-am portion of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2005. Last year, however, was a virtual washout due to back problems.
"I've felt like quitting 10 times over," he admitted recently. "I'm working hard on my health to get that back in line."
Kribel and Modesto's Matt Bettencourt both will take part at Del Rio next week. In fact, they'll join Atwater's Matt Hansen for the Livermore Wine Country Championship, a Nationwide Tour stop, starting Thursday at The Course at Wente Vineyards.
Meanwhile, last-minute preparations continue at Del Rio for its second Canadian Tour event in the last four years. The tournament still seeks the following: volunteers, tournament caddies (minimum pay per round is $35) and players for Tuesday's pro-am.
The fee for the pro-am is $600 per player and $2,000 per foursome and, of course, there are some nifty perks.
"You'll receive a VIP credential for the week with access to the clubhouse and the hospitality tent," tournament spokesman Adam Parks said. "The tent also will have TV so you won't miss the Masters."
Prospective volunteers and caddies can call the United Way hotline at 524-1307. Pro-am contestants must contact Parks at 598-2555.
DIABLO -- Now that the Diablo Grande courses have been reoponed and the golf resort/community has filed Chapter 11, the question has been asked more than once by valley golfers: Will the maintenance of Diablo's Ranch and Legends West courses match their first-rate pedigree?
Twain Harte's Jeff Christensen, the chief executive officer of Sierra Golf, assumed the golf operation last month. He owns Pheasant Run near Chowchilla and runs other properties such as Forest Meadows near Murphys, Meadowmont in Arnold and Salinas Fairways.
The point: All the above are respectable golf outlets but they don't match up with Diablo Grande's Ranch layout, routed by Denis Griffiths, and the Legends West, the only course in the world bearing the design signature of Jack Nicklaus and the late Gene Sarazen.
Will Christensen's rotating staff keep DG's courses in good condition? One advantage is a surplus of state-of-the-art maintenance equipment for his use at Diablo Grande.
"It (Diablo Grande) is the big ticket. They don't get any bigger in Northern California," Christensen said. "That's something you can't put a price tag on. I'm certain we'll be up to the challenge."
Christensen plans to lower the rough and widen some of the fairways on the Ranch, which plays slightly tougher than the Legends West.
Regarding the resort's future, we'll let Dwain Sanders, vice president of development, summarize: "There's no doubt in my mind that Diablo Grande will become the emerald of Stanislaus County and the jewel of Northern California. There's no doubt in my mind we will make it. It's just not going to be tomorrow."
JUNIOR GOLF -- The Spring Creek CC Junior Classic, one of Northern California's premier junior events each summer, has given way to something better at the Ripon club. Spring Creek now will welcome the Junior Golf Association of Northern California/NorCal PGA junior tournament, held the last six years at Diablo Grande, on June 16-19. The popular tournament is limited to 228 players.
HOLES-IN-ONE -- John Wynn, Modesto, 157-yard eighth at Creekside, 7-iron. ... Rod Vilas, Turlock, 192-yard seventh at Stevinson Ranch, 5-iron. ... Mike Young, Turlock, 109-yard 12th at Stevinson Ranch, pitching wedge. ... Andrew Boutsikakis, Ripon, 94-yard 17th at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, pitching wedge.
Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.