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[whitespace] Golf Ball Sculpture
Photograph by Eric A. Carlson

Notes From the Underbelly

Journey to Sunken Gardens

By Eric A. Carlson


--Ben Hogan, when asked by Sam Snead if he could share a cab

SITTING ON MY FRONT PORCH with an honest-to-God Cuban cigar in one hand and a glass of very cheap red wine in the other, I tried to make sense of my secret Alviso source. One moment he's on the top of his game. And the next thing you know he's relinquishing his Liars Dice title to Frank Rebozzi, and providing juicy quotes to the Mercury News--his picture in the paper to boot. In color. The general consensus at Vahl's is that a woman is to blame. I was speaking to Frank on the subject, and after a while we started conversing on golf and the Greater Alviso Open. The tournament is organized by Frank and, like the Masters, is strictly invitational. It takes place on the renowned three-hole Pin High Golf Center in Alviso and drinking is involved. Alvisoans are invited first, and several outsiders are allowed in each year based on Frank's rigorous selection criteria. He told me that I am locked in for next year. That will be a story for the ages.

An orange, tailless, neighborhood cat joined me on the porch and began head-butting my calves. I admired the sky's ability to change colors as I plotted out a strategy to improve my golf game. Rebozzi recently shot an 85 at Cinnabar, so I have my work cut out. The next morning, I set sail for the San Jose Municipal Golf Course on famed Old Oakland Road. I was in for a bitter disappointment.

After lacing up my Footjoys, and toting my Pings to the clubhouse, I saw an ominous number of women milling about. It could mean only one thing--a woman's tournament. But on Monday? The pro shop confirmed that a tournament was underway. It is a sad day when a single working man cannot take a day off from work to play a round of golf. I redirected myself toward Sunnyvale and Sunken Gardens Golf Course (1010 S. Wolfe Road)--a nine-hole executive layout that has a dollop of challenge, and is indeed--sunken. The course is constructed on the site of a long-lost gravel pit. It is like playing in a lake bed covered with green sod, punctuated with palm trees. There is enough undulation to create interest. Two short par 4's consort with seven short par 3's. Greens fees are on the pricey side at $12.50--for what is essentially a Lilliputian nine-hole par 3 course. But what the hey, this is stinking rich Silicon Valley.

On an earlier adventure to study bowling alleys, I had succumbed to temptation at Nevada Bob's next to Cambrian Lanes--a Titleist 975D titanium driver with a 9.5-degree loft. I would not need it at Sunken Gardens. Here, all one needs is an 8 and a wedge, and a putter. But it is fun. And there is an adequate netted driving range and a fine cafe. And the staff is user-friendly.

It is great and joyous to walk on grass and strike golf balls at far-off targets. One is encouraged to wax philosophic. I found myself pondering my Alviso friend's comment in the newspaper, ". . . we've been successful in resisting the forces of change." Spoken like a true Alvisoan. And in complete accord with Dave Hickey's theory (although Joseph Heller may have coined it first) that "any change is for the worse." I am a believer. And therefore in accord with restaurant magnate Steve Borkenhagen who recently opined (again in the Mercury News), "I'm skeptical of the notion that San Jose needs to be master planned as opposed to allowing it to grow organically." Three cheers to that.

Change usually involves a raise in greens fees, or rent. While simultaneously putting more air--and fewer chips--in the bag.

Final note: The Greater Alviso Open golf tournament consists of six holes. After the first three, a two-hour pause is provided for golfers to refresh themselves. When it is all over, everyone repairs to the seventh hole--for more refreshment.

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From the June 7-13, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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