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O Canada tour, we cut our event ties with thee

The Canadian Tour has fled Diablo Grande, the resort up for sale.

Other than that, not much is happening in the foothills southwest of Patterson.

One telltale sign of change happened three weeks ago when Diablo Grande, the ambitious golf and master-planned community that opened in 1996, cut ties with the Canadian Tour. It played host to an event last April won by Indiana product Lee Williamson.

This year's tournament, again scheduled for April, was supposed to be the second of a three-year agreement between officials of Stockton-based Focused Sports & Entertainment — the promoters of several Canadian Tour events on the West Coast — and Diablo Grande and the tour.

Instead, Diablo Grande jettisoned the tournament during negotiations that began soon after Jan. 1.

"It was a decision based on where we are right now in relation to the project and the community. We decided to get out of the Canadian Tour agreement," said Dwain Sanders, Diablo Grande's vice president in charge of development. "The homeowners were going through a big surge of buying. We just felt that right now ... it was in our best interest to pass on it."

We also think Diablo Grande wasn't happy with the overall return on its investment. For example, the event merited only 18 minutes of camera time on The Golf Channel's tournament-review show.

Meanwhile, the tour already has arranged for a substitute tournament to be co-run with the California Tour. That event will be held at Boulder Ridge in San Jose the week before the Northern California Classic from April 19-22 at Brookside Country Club in Stockton.

Del Rio CC staged a successful Canadian Tour event — despite only four months of notice — in April 2005. It declined an additional year due to an ongoing change to its turfgrasses, which opened the door for Diablo Grande.

"We possibly could consider doing it again. It's not out of the question," Del Rio Manager Duncan Reno said. "The membership enjoyed the tournament, but it was a lot of work. If some of the workload is reduced on us, we would do it again in a heartbeat."

Diablo Grande kicked off in 1996 with unprecedented fanfare in the area. Founder and visionary Donald Panoz brought in the legendary Gene Sarazen, his old friend, to kick off the grand opening of the Ranch course. Also in tow were Jack Nicklaus, Lou Holtz and Kathy Whitworth.

Two years later, Nicklaus' Legends West course was christened with another appearance by Sarazen, who died one year later.

Today, about 450 people reside in nearly 200 occupied homes near the two courses. So far, Diablo Grande hasn't developed the planned six courses or the hotel-conference center. Future expansion will depend on the next buyer.

Diablo Grande someday "will be the next Palm Springs," Sarazen once wrote.

Maybe true, but it's up for bid now, and the Canadian Tour won't be back.

THE SHAG BAG — Former Chico State star Marc Peterson of Modesto has cashed in eight of nine events on the Pepsi and Golden State tours since he turned pro nine months ago. Last week, Peterson qualified for the U.S. Pro Golf Tour, which puts him in 10 tournaments featuring purses no lower than $300,000. That circuit begins next month. ... Turlock Christian High graduate Joey Fair, The Bee's high school player of the year in 2006, has continued his golf career at Division II Hawaii-Hilo. He's scheduled to compete in upcoming tournaments at Turlock CC and Stevinson Ranch. ...

Dave Harmon, the longtime director of the John Jacobs instructional program at Stevinson Ranch, has succeeded Dee Roadman as the club's director of golf. ... Jim Tocco plans to increase his work hours in his club-repair shop at McHenry Golf Center. Call 523-5151.

HOLES-IN-ONE — Audie Perez, 142-yard fifth at Dryden Park, 7-iron. ... Jeremy Nelson, Turlock, 135-yard 11th at River Oaks, Ceres, 6-iron. ... Cathy Nelson, Sonora, 110-yard 17th at Mountain Springs, Sonora, driver. ... Tom Johnson, Escalon, 71-yard third at Escalon, sand wedge. ... Dave Armbrust, Winton, 138-yard fourth at Stevinson Ranch, 8-iron. ... Ron Esquivel, Twain Harte, 162-yard fifth at Mountain Springs, 6-iron.

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Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at 578-2302 or ragostini@modbee.com.

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