Ron Agostini

Agostini on Golf: Silva reflects on 50 years of golf instruction

Greg Silva thought his trip to St. George, Utah, would be a pleasant getaway – a visit with his sister coupled with an amateur golf tournament.

The year was 1964 and Silva was 17. It all seemed so routine.

Until it wasn’t.

Start with the fact that, to his surprise, it was a professional tournament. Then, he shot 10-under-par 62, aced a 178-yard par 3 to take home a baby blue Cadillac convertible, and won the tournament.

Silva, a member of one of Modesto’s pioneer golf families, had a decision to make: Accept nothing and remain an amateur, or take home the check and the car and turn pro.

“Mom said, ‘You’re not going to play baseball anymore,’” Silva remembered. “Take the car and the money and go to work for your father.”

Silva heeded his mother’s words and took a job under his father, Andy, at Dryden Park. He probably was headed in that direction anyway – a teenager who can shoot 62 against the pros already is pointed toward golf – but his stay in Utah surely accelerated the process.

Today, Silva looks back at his golf roots with pride and a knowing nod. He celebrates his 50th year as a teaching pro, one of the area’s best, and still likes what’s ahead.

River Oaks in Ceres, his place of employment since 1992, has been sold to the Thornberry family and Robert and Gloria Hall. They’re working on the restoration of the pleasant par 58 not far from the Tuolumne River.

Silva plans to work with Ryan Thornberry, a mini-tour campaigner for eight years, as they become a one-two punch on the practice tee. Silva’s affection for Thornberry is genuine. Thornberry received his first lessons from Silva at age 7.

“Ryan is an incredible player who set his standards pretty high,” Silva said. “I’m looking forward to doing some exciting things with him at River Oaks.”

One thing already on the agenda is a free Saturday clinic later this month just to let people know there’s new energy at the Ceres course.

“If that course was closed, it would have been another blow to golf. We’re losing courses right and left,” Silva said. “It was a big win for the community.”

The new owners are working hard to bring the course back up to speed, while Thornberry anticipates more than a few good days with his longtime teacher.

“We’re trying to generate more interest and raise the morale at River Oaks,” Thornberry said. “Working with Greg is going to be an easy fit. He’s helped me every step of the way. We just want people to enjoy this place again.”

Meanwhile, Silva reflects on his half-century as a pro, especially the first day.

“They gave me a check, a car and a career,” he said.

The Shag Bag – Former Cal State Stanislaus star Trevor Clayton scored what he called the highlight win of his career, the title of the California State Fair Men’s Amateur on Monday at Sacramento’s Haggin Oaks. Clayton shot a closing 67 for a 54-hole total of 206 and defeated Nevada sophomore Jooho Lee on the fourth playoff hole. The 6-foot-4 Clayton, the California Collegiate Athletic Association medalist in 2014, transferred to Fresno State after two strong seasons. He forged his way into the playoff by chipping in for eagle on the final hole. “I’d like to think it’s the new normal,” Clayton told The Sacramento Bee’s Steve Pajak regarding his win. ... The Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, to be held Sept. 25-27, presents the best of both worlds: a chance to watch the top Champions Tour stars in a low-key setting at one of golf’s most famous addresses, and the price is right: Free parking and no admission charge.

Hole-in-one – Hudson Schenk, Ripon, 104-yard first at Peter Hay Course at Pebble Beach, driver. The Pebble Beach staff awarded 4-year-old Hudson with a special certificate.

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