Ron Agostini

Don Pedro returns next month

Lake Don Pedro Golf Resort and Country Club, left for dead seven years ago, rises again Saturday, Feb. 16.

That's the opening day for the club after its surprising and ambitious $22 million makeover, a project that transformed the foothill 18-hole course from a tangled and overgrown mess into a revived fairways and fun destination.

"We're pulling the trigger and we're ready to go," said Lake Don Pedro head professional Ray Claveran Jr., who worked there for his father over two decades ago. "I'm so excited to open, words can't express."

Lake Don Pedro returns to the local golf stage as a semi-private club with its own membership and reasonable green fees. It will charge $55 per round on weekends, $45 on Friday and $35 Monday through Thursday. All fees include cart.

The club went out of business late in 2000 after years of financial trouble. Seeing an opportunity was the San Ramon-based Deerwood Corporation, a real estate firm which started its collection of Lake Don Pedro properties five years ago.

The anchor to the project is a golf course thoroughly remade. All teeing areas and greens have been relocated, and the result is a layout stretching from 5,400 to more than 6,800 yards, about 500 yards longer than the original.

Virtually everything is new -- bunkers, about 1,000 trees, irrigation and an update of the Billy Bell design (1970).

"The greens are anywhere from 20 to 50 yards away from where they were first installed," Claveran said.

"We think we've added more risk and reward to the shotmaking, and not just by length. By strategic placings of the trees, bunkers and greens, I think we added to the shotmaking."

A good example is the par-3 ninth, the former finishing hole. What used to be drab middle-iron carry over an unattractive hazard has been changed to a shot as long as 210 yards featuring a waterfall and surrounded by a bridge, landscaping and the new clubhouse.

"It's a more pretty setting," Claveran said. "It shows we've come a long ways."

Lake Don Pedro also will unveil town homes with state-of-the-art technology, a bar and a restaurant. Stay & Play packages with discounted green fees also will be offered by a resort which thinks it can draw more than about 25,000 rounds a year, its peak during the late 1980s and early '90s.

"True value is what golfers look for now, things like customer service, amenities and competitive pricing," Claveran said. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't think we could do it."

All opening-day tee times are taken, though there is a waiting list for cancellations. A few slots are left for Sunday, Feb. 17. For more information, visit deerwoodcorp.com or call 852-0404.

O CANADA -- The Canadian Tour's return to Del Rio CC after a three-year absence surprised some observers. In truth, Modesto's private club enjoyed its one-week commitment to prize-money golf and even considered higher-level tournaments. About 62 per cent of the surveyed membership enjoyed the 2005 experience, which opened the door to the upcoming tournament -- the 2008 kickoff to the 14-event Canadian Tour schedule -- to be held April 10-13.

"One of the reasons we're so excited is that the Nationwide Tour is off that week, so hopefully some of our local pros (such as Modesto's Matt Bettencourt, Atwater's Matt Hansen and Ceres' Ryan Thornberry) will come here," Canadian Tour spokesman Adam Parks said. "We have a good plan in place."

The plan calls for the Canadian Tour to put up the $100,000 purse ($16,000 first prize) and expenses and to run the event from start to finish. Del Rio will furnish the venue and volunteers.

Del Rio Manager Duncan Reno said the club netted an $8,000 profit from the 2005 competition won by Edmonton pro Stuart Anderson.

Del Rio, which switched its fairway grasses from rye to bermuda after 2005, bypassed the tournament in 2006 to Diablo Grande and last year to Boulder Ridge in San Jose. The Canadian Tour, which never scratched Del Rio from its list, still needed a companion event to the tournament at Stockton's Brookside CC.

"Del Rio was the most popular course on the tour that year," Tour Commissioner Rick Janes said.

"The players loved the traditional look and the hospitality. We're happy we're back."

Deputy Director Dan Halldorson, a former winner on the PGA Tour, is scheduled to visit Del Rio this week.

For the record, two early winners on the 2008 Tour -- Daniel Chopra (Mercedes) and D.J. Trahan (Bob Hope Chrysler) -- are Canadian Tour graduates.

A final word: Yes, the Del Rio tournament will be held the same weekend as The Masters, which will activate more than a few VCR or TiVO units.

THE SHAG BAG -- Greenhorn Creek in Angels Camp was commended for "best playing conditions" and "worth the green fee" by Greenskeeper.org via votes from valley golfers. ... The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, to be held Feb. 7-10, will feature the return of two-time British Open champion Greg Norman after a 16-year absence. His amateur partner will be his son Gregory. Phil Mickelson will defend his title against former AT&T champions Arron Oberholser, Steve Jones and Peter Jacobsen, along with Jim Furyk, Mike Weir, Justin Leonard and Chris DeMarco. The top celebrities include George Lopez, Kevin Costner, Carson Daly, Craig T. Nelson, Glenn Frey, Chris O'Donnell, Huey Lewis and others. For tickets, call 800-541-9091 or visit attpbgolf.com.

HOLE-IN-ONE -- Cindy Gibbs, Turlock, 110-yard fourth at Stevinson Ranch, 5-hybrid.

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

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