Ron Agostini

February 25, 2014

Agostini on Golf: France-born golfer honed his game at Del Rio

France-born Victor Dubuisson, who reached the finals of the Accenture World Match Play Championship last week, is remembered for his tournament seven years ago at Del Rio.

It didn’t exactly make major headlines at the time, but sometimes the story grows.

We see a lot of that with athletes who’ve honed their craft in Modesto, especially with the Modesto Nuts. One of the joys of following minor league baseball is seeing the youngster who’s just trying to stay afloat here but, in a few years, makes millions and is on TV every other night.

The same thing goes in golf.

We’ve covered several tournaments over the years that feature up-and-coming talent. The Canadian Tour made a few stops here a decade ago and so did the Scratch Players Championship, a summer-time event that draws top-of-the-line collegiate players.

Del Rio Country Club was the host for the 2007 Scratch Players, and several club members welcomed visiting golfers into their homes for a week. Carl Wesenberg, a passionate golf fan, jogged our memory this week with a story that bridged 2007 with cutting-edge golf news.

Last weekend brought us the headline that planted its roots in local soil long ago.

Wesenberg hosted the French National Golf Team in 2007, including one Cannes-born young man who had won the French Amateur in 2006. His name was, and still is, Victor Dubuisson.

Yes, he’s the same pro who battled for 23 holes on Sunday before he lost to Jason Day in the finals of the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. Dubuisson’s magical short game, including two miraculous up-and-downs from the desert in the playoffs, impressed all who watched.

Diehard golf followers know Dubuisson. He’s risen like a comet from 259th two years ago to No. 23 in world rankings. Last year on the European Tour, he held off Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter to win the Turkish Airlines Open.

And as we saw last week, he plays minus fear in head-to-head match-play. He warmed up for the event by placing 59th at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and 13th at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Dubuisson is long off the tee and crazy-good around the greens.

But in 2007, he was 17 and only five years departed from his introduction to golf after he was inspired by Tiger Woods’ victory in the 2002 Masters. His potential, however, already was blinking like Las Vegas neon.

Dubuisson tamed Del Rio’s Oak and Bluff nines in 72, 66, 72 and 69 and finished 10th that year in the Scratch Players. He spiced his 66 by nearly holing his second shot at the 572-yard sixth (Bluff) to set up an eagle.

And that tournament moved him forward to bigger things.

IKE TREE – The Eisenhower Tree, the famous the 65-foot loblolly pine at Augusta National’s 17th hole, was removed last week after it was damaged during Georgia’s recent ice storm. Its absence will be noticed by everyone who follows the Masters in April.

The tree, which was more than 100 years old, was named for former President Dwight Eisenhower, one of the heroes of World War II who was an Augusta member for many years. He hated that tree because he hit it with his shots many times. In fact, he lobbied to have it removed.

“I’m sure President Eisenhower up there in heaven will say, ‘At last. I’ve got my wish,’” three-time Masters champion Gary Player said.

What happens to the 17th minus its trademark remains to be seen.

“We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and to pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history – rest assured, we will do both appropriately,” said Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne in an official statement.

Payne also reported that the course sustained no other major damage. Something big, however, will be missing in April.

THE SHAG BAG – Many 2-for-1 green-fees coupons at local courses are available in the 25th annual West Coast Golf ValueBook. Discounts are there for 350 courses throughout California, Hawaii and the West. Purchasers must present the entire Valuebook, which is good for the rest of the year, at the pro shop for redemption. Other bargains, including a year’s subscription to Golf Digest magazine, also are included. Contact Mark Reynolds at (800) 949-1415 or ... Instructor Dana Arnold-Ebster, the former local junior golf star who starred at USC and also played in the U.S. Women’s Open, offers her Ladies Golf Clinic every Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. at McHenry Golf Center. The class, for women of all ages and abilities, covers all the fundamentals of the game including rules and etiquette. The cost is $15. Arnold-Ebster and staff also offer junior clinics for ages 4-12 every Saturday at 9:30 a.m. It costs $12. Call (209) 523-5151.

HOLES-IN-ONE – Kern Hunewill, Newman, 205-yard 16th at Stevinson Ranch, driver. ... Jim Dullard, Ripon, 90-yard fourth at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 8-iron.

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