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Padecky: Slow golf play a total drag

  • From left, Dale Westrom of Santa Rosa, Dan Ross of Santa Rosa, Peter Gilligan of Sonoma and Mark DeMeo of Santa Rosa wait for the fairway to clear before teeing off on the second hole at Foxtail North. (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat))

PETALUMA

If you were USGA commissioner for a day and you could wave your magic wand and change whatever you thought necessary to improve public golf, what would you do?

When I asked 11 golfers that question at Rooster Run on Thursday, no one said, “The game is fine. Leave it the way it is.” To be fair, opinions in sports are like noses. Everyone has one. And some golfers had really big noses, really big. Take Steve Ellison's — his opinion, not his nose.

“This guy hits a tee shot, watches the ball and then goes to his golf bag,” said the legendary, now retired football coach from Petaluma High. “He's fumbling around in his golf bag. He finally produces a pack of cigarettes. He takes one out, lights it and then stares down the fairway.”

The smoker didn't grab his cart and go down the fairway. The smoker stood there, admiring the scenery, a beautiful day for a stroll with a golf club it was, puffing away ... boy, is Sonoma County gorgeous.

Waiting for the smoker to clear the tee box so he could hit, Ellison could have ground coffee, his teeth so tightly clenched, moving sideways in agitation. So when it came to offering an opinion on how to improve golf, Ellison said the same thing that Harri Toivola of Seattle said. A hockey player in town competing in the Snoopy tournament, Toivola had the most logical, common sense idea. In fact, Toivola's idea should be considered mandatory by the USGA.

“You're a beginner and you want to learn how to play golf?” Toivola said. “Great. Good. Here's what you do. Go play a par-3 course a bunch of times. Learn the etiquette involved in the game.”

I'll take it one step further. Upon arrival for the first time at a par-71, 6,464-yard layout like Rooster Run, show the pro at the golf shop what I will call your Practice Card. You took and passed that one-hour etiquette class. You played a par-3 course three times. You are now qualified to go to Rooster and shoot a 100 without causing civil unrest.

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