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Barona Creek ready for Tour Championship after scare

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.pgatour.com/2007/tournaments/h045/10/30/barona/ Barona Creek ready for Tour Championship after scare Oct. 30, 2007 San Diego wildfires crept close
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2007

      Barona Creek ready for Tour Championship after scare

      Oct. 30, 2007
      San Diego wildfires crept close to site of Nationwide season finale

      By Dave Lagarde
      PGATOUR.com Correspondent

      LAKESIDE, Calif. -- The tranquil scene and sounds at Barona Creek Golf Club
      early Tuesday morning were par for the course at a venue preparing to play
      host to the Nationwide Tour Championship.

      The Cuyamaca hills provided a mauve backdrop as titanium and steel struck
      golf balls on the practice range. The whir of mowers manicuring fairways
      and greens resonated in the crisp, clear air. Squawking water fowl made the
      only ripples as they glided across on glass-like ponds. Emerald green was
      the predominant color of the day, save for the wheat-colored native grasses
      and stately oaks.

      The scent hovering everywhere provided the only giveaway to the chaotic
      scene that defined this southern California area less than a week ago.
      Barona and its environs smelled faintly of a fireplace with the
      unmistakable essence of lingering smoke.

      That was understandable considering the plethora of destructive wildfires
      that raged throughout San Diego County and southern California last week.
      Conditions were so extreme the PGA TOUR considered postponing or moving the
      Nationwide Tour's most prestigious event that begins Thursday and will
      feature 56 players in the 72-hole, no-cut event that offers the largest
      first-place check in history, $139,500.

      The decision was made to stage the tournament late last week after
      consultation with various San Diego city and county officials. The area got
      a major break when the Santa Ana winds that fueled the infernos quelled and
      firefighters were able to get the fires under control.

      The fires crept dangerously close to Barona Creek but the property, which
      includes a hotel, casino and convention and golf events centers, was
      spared. The only thing lost to the blaze was a small building on the
      reservation of the Barona Band of Mission Indians, who own Barona.

      That was in contrast to four years ago when fires burned everything that
      wasn't green on the golf course.

      "It rolled right through the property," Barona Creek Director of Golf Don
      King said of the previous fire. "But I believe the hotel and casino were
      spared because of all the lush grass. The fire literally burned right
      around them. But a lot of members of the tribe lost their homes. This whole
      area was devastated."

      The resort was closed from Sunday night until Saturday morning while the
      battle against the fires was waged. Wildcat Canyon Road, the only road into
      the resort, was closed for the same period. However, the 30 members of the
      Barona Creek's maintenance staff, including superintendent Sandy Clark,
      were allowed to drive into the property beginning Wednesday.

      "We went into a serious scramble mode," King said. "The staff literally
      worked from sunup to sundown."

      Fairways had five days of growth, while the greens had not been trimmed in
      three days. And it was showing, King said.

      "It made for a lot of grass clippings," he said. "But it held up well

      Another major clean-up area was Barona Creek's 100-plus bunkers. They
      served as collection areas for leaves and debris moved by winds that gusted
      as high as 80 mph.

      Meanwhile, the Barona Creek staff wasn't the only group scrambling. GOLF
      CHANNEL, which will televise all four days of the Nationwide Tour
      Championship, could not get its equipment on site. Equipment trucks
      traveling to Barona were told to go into holding pattern until the decision
      to stage the tournament at Barona was made.

      "Basically, it was a minor inconvenience," said Lanny McKeegan, a technical
      manager for GOLF CHANNEL. "The trailers got here (Monday) and we're still
      waiting on land lines for telephones. But that's about it. Comparatively it
      was nothing."

      So all's well that ends well. The tournament will go on as area residents
      attempt to return to some semblance of normality. King looked at the event
      as something that will help the process for many.

      "We're extremely happy the event is going to go on as scheduled," King
      said, pointing to the San Diego Chargers game against the Houston Oilers in
      San Diego last Sunday as another avenue that would provide some relief to
      the stress the fires produced.

      "Like the game, we hope the tournament brings some positive energy back
      into the community as it starts the rebuilding process, and obviously offer
      some relief. We hope people will be able to get out of the house and come
      watch some good golf."
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