Ron Agostini

Stevinson Ranch has earned national respect

The 18th hole red tee  at Stevinson Ranch Golf Course Tuesday late afternoon.
The 18th hole red tee at Stevinson Ranch Golf Course Tuesday late afternoon. Modesto Bee

Stevinson Ranch never has been left wanting for awards since its opening 13 years ago.

It's been honored by everyone from the National Audubon Society to Golf Digest magazine. Stevinson Ranch, located south of Hilmar in Merced County, has brought national recognition to a quiet corner of golfdom.

But this time, another award has unleashed a new kind of respect.

Golf World magazine polled its readers -- rather than a staff committee -- for the 2009 Readers' Choice Awards to honor the country's top public and private courses. Stevinson Ranch ranked 11th on the public course list, ahead of such luminaries as the 2008 U.S. Open venue Torrey Pines (38th) and Poppy Hills (41st).

That it came from readers, and most likely players who've enjoyed Stevinson Ranch's first-class conditions and service, was a satisfying plus. RTJ Golf Trail at Grand National in Opelika, Ala., topped the list.

"I'm surprised in one way, but I'm not surprised in another," said George Kelley, Stevinson Ranch's owner and co-designer. "We've placed a lot of our focus on providing our customers the best possible service. It is an amazing accomplishment for our staff."

Stevinson Ranch's quick greens, excellent drainage and overall condition always have received favorable word-of-mouth reviews among players. Golf World wrote, "Located in the middle of nowhere, this endlessly interesting course is worth the drive ... . A wonderful layout and good conditions make it very popular with our readers, and until Pebble (Beach) cuts their fee in half, this is the place."

In fact, Stevinson Ranch was ranked No. 1 in the nation in both golf practice facilities and course conditions, and second in service.

"It's especially gratifying since this recognition comes from people who've played the golf course and experienced what we provide," Kelley said. "For us it's very special."

To check the entire Readers' Choice results, visit

THE SHAG BAG -- The United Way of Stanislaus County's board of directors unanimously approved its 2009 participation in the Spring International, the Canadian Tour event again to be staged at Del Rio Country Club. It will mark the third time in five years that the CanTour comes to Modesto. ... Steve Smith, the local United Way chapter's executive director, also corrected a statistic that ran in last week's column. He reported that the United Way, which coordinated ticket sales, eventually earned a check for $10,746 from the 2008 tournament. ...

Del Rio members Troy Williams and Kenneth Dieker (70-65--135) tied for fifth at the Northern California Golf Association 4-Ball Master Division Championship at Poppy Hills last week. Also tying for fifth were David Capal of Stevinson Ranch and Jamie Looper of Oakdale (68-67--135), six strokes behind winners James Hay and Mark Hill of Diablo Grande. ... Bret Harte senior Kirsten Locke (81-79--160) finished eighth in the girls division of the NCGA Junior Tour's East Bay stop at Poppy Ridge. ... Former 49er stars Ronnie Lott and Keena Turner, among other special guests, are scheduled to take part in the Wachovia Dealer Services Golf Challenge, a benefit tournament to fight Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), to be held Thursday at Saddle Creek in Copperopolis. Call Kelly Pachoud, 955-7802.

HOLES-IN-ONE -- Clare Buchanan, Ripon, 102-yard sixth at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 5-wood. ... Todd Bradley, Manteca, 148-yard 16th at Jack Tone, 9-iron. ... Mickey Zavack, Angels Camp, 156-yard eighth at Greenhorn Creek, Angels Camp, 5-iron.

Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at or 578-2302.