Our Laguna: A grand reopening at Aliso Creek Golf Course

Caring for less fortunate neighbors is par for the course in Laguna.

The reopening of Aliso Creek Golf Course on Sunday raised funds to be donated to the Laguna Beach Relief and Resource Center for the survivors of the December Deluge. The proceeds included green fees, entries in a closest-to-the-pin contest, instruction sessions, Tee Box sponsorships and individual donations.

"The community really showed up," said J.D. Blashaw, golf operations manager.

Insurance broker John Campbell announced Wednesday that 186 golfers played the course the day it reopened and between $9,000 and $10,000 was raised, $2,100 of it from the Tee Box sponsors.

Campbell and his wife, Lu, collected $100 from 21 sponsors: Harry and Sue Bithell, Laguna Saloon, Marine Room, Dr. David Cler and Dr. Michael Cook, Bushard's Pharmacy, the Joe Jahraus Family, Sandpiper, Sorrento Grille, Pepper Tree Lane, Shirley Eramo, chiropractor Veronica Nice, George Heed and Marty Conlon, Ann and Charlie Quilter, Jim Lawler, Laguna Canyon Smog, Michael and Cheryl Kinsman, Homestead Escrow, The Termite Guy and Davis Law. Each of the sponsors will receive a plaque from the insurance agency to commemorate their contribution.

Lu Campbell also gets credit for the sign on the table where folks signed up for the closest-to the pin contest, which she joked was not quite up to standard of her work shown at the Festival of Arts.

The Campbells also played a round, along with Barbara and Dr. Dave Norton. Relief Center Executive Director Donna Valenti and Volunteer Coordinator Ann Quilter staffed the table, strategically placed so golfers had to pass it to get to the first tee.

Quilter and Valenti collected the entry fees for the contest. Participants plunked down $5 a hole to compete, with a maximum of four holes.

Among the competitors: Philo Smith, Greg Boyce, Jonathan Wolin, Todd Weaver of Emerald Bay, Steve Chapman, Win O'Neille, Jason Wenk and Tom Noyes.

Laguna Beach native and businessman Mark Christy came the closest to the No. 2 hole. Peggy Watchel was the winner on the fourth hole. Jim Didion won on the sixth hole and Jim Duval picked up the prize on the eighth hole.

Each winner was awarded $50 and a free round of golf.

Golf instructor Rob Reinhorn offered 50-minute sessions for $75, which also went to the center.

"I am so bad I had to get two sessions," Quilter said.

Christy said it would be worth it.

"He is the best instructor ever, and I have taken lessons from 10 different ones," Christy said. "He doesn't try to make everyone a Tiger Woods swing. He works with your swing."

Quilter and Valenti also accepted donations to the center.

Bonnie Royce, who is spending an extended time in California from Sweden where she moved after marrying, was among the donors. She and her husband, Hans Linnros, had played the course before and brought two visitors from Sweden for opening day.

"We were here a month ago and were told when it would reopen," Royce said. "This is the best golf course around. It is so beautiful. We will be bringing more visitors to show them just how beautiful California can be."

Some of the donations came from golfers who didn't even know the reopening was a benefit.

"I didn't know the greens fees were going to the relief center," said North Lagunan Nancy Bushnell, at the course with Louise Thornton. "This thrills me."

"You are lean, mean and fabulous," she told Valenti.

Two young boys each contributed a dollar.

"That was the big one for me," Valenti said.

Donors were obviously moved by Faye Chapman's photographs of the flooding downtown that were displayed near the center's table and a scrapbook of pictures of the flooded golf course, which was more lake than fairways for days.

The sign for the eighth hole was swept away and later found at Aliso Beach, a longtime repository for errant golf balls hit into the creek.

But that was nothing compared with picking up the wooden bridge that ended up on the beach in the 1998 flood and hauling it back to the golf course, Quilter said.

"It's still here," she said.

Golf course personnel spent weeks clearing debris, rebuilding bunkers, replanting trees and reseeding, only to have another series of rains storms drench the fairways in the days just before the reopening on Sunday. The rain didn't let up until Saturday night and at 4 a.m. the staff was on the course "squeegeeing" it dry.

Maybe they should get a plaque too.

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HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

Montage Laguna Beach broke ground in the first week of February on the Studio Garden.

The crop will be organically-grown seasonal herbs, fruits and vegetables, to be used throughout the Montage property. It should be completed by spring and visitors are invited.

Village Laguna will be meeting Monday with Transition Laguna, seeking common ground.

Transition Laguna aims to reduce consumer reliance on imported goods, which sap our energy reserves. They encourage neighborhood gardens, such as the one growing in South Laguna, while raising awareness of the challenges of climate changes and peak oil.

Laguna was the 10th city to join the international movement. City Environmental Committee member Chris Prelitz founded Transition Laguna with six like-minded folks. The group now claims 450 members.

Right across the street, stakes have sprouted atop and along the sides of the buildings in the Aliso Creek Shopping Center, showing changes proposed for redevelopment.

The redesign was scheduled to be heard Feb. 24 by the Board of Adjustment/Design Review, but the meeting was canceled and the hearing has been rescheduled for March 24.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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