Our only professional sports event and we have to wave goodbye - Morgan Hill Times: Mark Derry

Our only professional sports event and we have to wave goodbye

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Posted: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 10:01 am

Gorgeous time of year Indian Summer is in the Hayes Valley in San Martin where the PGA Golf professionals show up to play each fall in early October. Crisp CordeValle Golf Resort mornings yield to sunshiny warm afternoons at the Frys.Com Open. The views are as soothing as a Fred Couple’s swing. It’s a walk in a natural park interrupted by occasional roars from the happy crowd, announcements on the first tee … please welcome our 11:22 a.m. pairing … Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera from Argentina … and next to tee off 1997 British Open Champion Justin Leonard from Dallas, Texas ... and bellows from the beer-for-birdies bunch at the pavilion aside the 17th green.

The names have been “bigger” as the tournament has garnered more prestige. FedEx Cup points were in play for the first time this year. Earn enough points in tournaments through the year and you’re into a playoff with a shot at winning $10 million. Yep, quite a prize at the end of that golf rainbow. Add in a spot at the venerable Masters, one of golf’s four annual major tournaments, for the Frys winner this year, mix in the  growing reputation of CordeValle Resort and the South County countryside and the attraction factor for top players just keeps inching upward. Who needs Tiger, really, when you have Rocco Mediate holing out four times from the fairway and Swede Jonas Blixt first-time victory dancing on the 18th green with all his friends? You could almost hear Abba belting out joyful tunes from “Mama Mia” in the background.

But Pacific Gas and Electric, which has to be one of the most unresponsive, arrogant and beastly utility companies in the entire universe, has managed to blow up the Frys.Com Tournament and jettison South County’s only professional marquis event and its huge economic impact to Napa. Why? Because they won’t seek a reasonable solution to a gas pipeline issue at the site in the eastern foothills of Morgan Hill where retail electronics entrepreneur John Fry has built a stunning 18-hole  long and tree-lined golf layout, but can’t build the planned clubhouse and Mathematics Institute because PG&E won’t sign off on the building permit. And the giant power utility is mum. Unreturned phone calls, unresponsive to the city of Morgan Hill and, seemingly, happy to sit on its powerful hands while the many businesses that reap the benefits from the Frys.Com Tournament watch powerlessly as it slips away. Maybe Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate could lead a boycott – don’t pay the PG&E bill until the problem is solved.

Will the tournament return someday? Organizers say so, of course, but it sure would be better if it never left. Which brings up the issue of why CordeValle declined to extend its agreement to host the tournament until John Fry’s new course is ready. CordeValle is now owned by Hasso Plattner, a founder of SAP – the international behemoth business software company that took over sponsorship of where the San Jose Sharks play. The former HP Pavilion is now the SAP Center. Does the SAP billionaire, originally from Germany who know lives in South Africa and owns a Golf Digest Top 100 golf course there, think that the Fry’s plan will crumble and he will be able to take the slot on tour and host his own prestigious tournament at CordeValle where his new mansionesque home is complete? Who knows?

What we do know is that it’s a crying shame the tournament is exiting South County. Besides the immediate economic impact, there’s the national TV exposure featuring the magnificent vistas of hillsides dotted with picturesque vineyards and the green undulations of a spectacularly inviting golf course. That’s tourism publicity that money can’t buy. If you ask the golf pros who’ve been around the area for a while – Steve Janisch and Don DeLorenzo, specifically – they’ll tell you the Hayes Valley is where the late George Archer, sharp-eyed Gilroy PGA pro and 1969 Masters Champion, wanted to build a golf course. The terrain is stunning … and we have wonderful restaurants that PGA pros are happy to enjoy, and golden wineries – hey, what about staying a couple of extra days – and we value open space, that’s obvious with our parks and containment of urban sprawl.

South County has so much to offer. We’re not ostentatious or pretentious. We have an agricultural heritage that we value, and it’s still alive and kicking. Plus we’re a friendly lot with plenty of people who are happy to volunteer for charitable purposes at the Frys.Com.

At this point, what matters is that the powers that be – that’s the City of Morgan Hill, PG&E and John Fry at the top – figure out what needs to happen to solve the pipeline problem. Civic organizations, such as the Morgan Hill Chamber led by John Horner and Rich Firato and the Gilroy Welcome Center and Gilroy Chamber, led by Jane Howard and Mark Turner, respectively, should be turning up the heat to move this pile. Hotels, gas taxes, exposure, sales tax, charitable benefits … where’s the hue and cry, where’s the Chamber speaking at the City Council meeting, where’s the government review committee seeking answers on an important local economic issue?

For now, we have lost this gem. But we can get it back. Think of it as a wedding ring fallen down bathroom sink. It’s going to take some work, but it’s sure worth every effort to retrieve. And, hopefully, once it’s back it will stay forever.

Reach Editor Mark Derry at editor@morganhilltimes.com

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