Tahoe Donner Golf Course opened for the season Friday. Rain, wind and 50-degree temperatures didn’t deter 60 hardy souls who’ve been waiting six months for a crack at their favorite track.
It got colder Saturday. It snowed Sunday. Tee times were delayed Monday.
After a winter in which the Sierra snowpack was 85 percent greater than normal, the future looks bright, though. Tuesday’s high temperature in Truckee was in the high 60s and is projected to give way to 70s later in the week and the low 80s by the weekend.
Golf operations manager James Murtagh is in his 19th year at Tahoe Donner. He’s seen Memorial Day weekend openings, but he’s also seen one as late as June 23 in 2011.
“We lucked out with a warm May,” Murtagh said. “The biggest challenge has been all the water on the course (because of melting snow).”
Several Tahoe-Truckee area courses opened June 2. At 6,500 feet, Tahoe Donner is usually last.
“Hopefully summer is here now,” Murtagh said.
A reduced rate of $100 for the public and $50 for members is in effect until June 23, after which rates bump up to $125 and $60.
Niger in Senior Open – In two weeks, Bob Niger’s game will be tested against the best 50-and-over players in the world when he tees it up in the U.S. Senior Open.
Next week, his blood will be tested for the potential spread of cancer after his prostate was removed in March.
Any questions about which test is more important?
Niger, a dominant figure on the regional golf scene for decades, has been chasing his senior tour dream since turning 50. Now 57, the El Dorado Hills resident was diagnosed with prostate cancer during a routine physical earlier this year.
His prostate was removed March 16, after which he was told that the cancer was not fully contained. His first post-surgery PSA test revealed no detectable cancer. Good news, he said, but not definitive.
Next week’s test results will determine his future. Best case, the cancer hasn’t spread into his bones and he will have radiation treatment after the Senior Open, which tees off June 29 at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass.
“Qualifying was particularly satisfying this time around,” he said. “If it’s my last tournament as a professional, at least I’m going out on my terms as opposed to being knocked out by all this crap.”
Niger earned one of two Senior Open berths during qualifying last week in Portland, Ore., just over a month after resuming practicing. It will be his fourth Senior Open and eighth United States Golf Association championship.
“Golf motivates me to be as strong as I can be and keep my life normal,” he said. “If you take golf away from me, my life is not normal.”
Auburn Valley update – Placer Land Trust is no longer negotiating directly to purchase Auburn Valley Golf Club from the bank that owns it.
Instead, PLT president Fred Yeager said his private, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of wild open spaces is working with a group that is interested in purchasing the land and keeping it a golf course.
“We hope to work with them in order to ensure that the golf course can remain there and be successful, and we can also work on some parking and access issues (to the adjacent Harvego Bear River Preserve),” Yeager said.
Odds are – Dustin Johnson is the 7-1 favorite to win this week’s U.S. Open, according to Vegas Insider odds. Johnson is followed by Jordan Spieth (9-1), Rory McIlroy (10-1) and Jason Day (11-1).
Sacramento amateur Cameron Champ is 2,500-1, which seems worth a flyer. The tie for 13th by Sacramento’s Spencer Levin in 2004 remains the highest U.S. Open finish by an amateur in 46 years.
Phil Mickelson is 10-1 to play, but those odds change as rapidly as Midwest weather.
At mytopsportsbooks.com, Tiger Woods is 65-1 to win on the PGA Tour in the next 12 months, 150-1 to win a major and 199-1 to retire.
Et cetera – Lynne Cowan of Rocklin won the NCGA Women’s Senior Amateur. Her two-round total of 3-over-par 147 at Poppy Hills was a whopping nine shots best. Cowan was second in the California Women’s Senior Amateur last month.
▪ Griffin Long of Davis and Drake Mendenhall of Granite Bay each shot a 4-under 68 at Yolo Fliers to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur next month at Flint Hills in Kansas.
▪ Topgolf Roseville will host an all-day U.S. Open viewing party on Thursday. Register at topgolf.com/roseville.
Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526