ETCETERA - Fore! Cybergolf blogger in his cups over Wine Valley

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Although Cybergolf blogger and associate editor Jay Flemma whined some about a long trek from Seattle to our Valley, the 5 a.m. wakeup call and five-hour drive cross-state paid off when he reached "one of the country's hottest new golf destinations."

He enjoyed crossing diverse ecosystems en route: the dramatic Interstate 90 mountain traverse over Snoqualmie Pass, despite ice, snow and semis that ripped by "at ludicrous speeds." He also described the state's "central desert region, past rugged, rolling hilltops and verdant gorges" before reaching the wine and wheat country of Walla Walla, at last.

"The drive was certainly worth the five hours, and Wine Valley's golf course is a marvel," he concluded. "We'll have a much more in-depth review next month and an interview with architect Portland-based architect Dan Hixson to go along with it, but long-story-short, run don't walk to Wine Valley. Its greens are that good," he wrote at tinyurl.com/72ycw8e .

I had to look up his reference to Ballyneal, a private course in Holyoke, Colo., because he compares it and Wine Valley Golf Club.

"Both courses are in the middle of nowhere ... have wild, hurly-burly greens with fierce contours ... (and) a bold, natural look complete with blowout bunkers (think deep bomb craters). Both are built over enormous areas (Wine Valley spreads across 300 acres), yet both are minimalist in design; hardly any earth was moved during construction at either. Both courses play fast and firm. And both courses have an ardent cult following; each is the stuff of holy whispers by and among the golf cognoscenti."

John Thorsnes, director of golf at Wine Valley, told me that Golf Week magazine rates the Walla Walla course as No. 2 in the state behind Chambers Bay in Tacoma, site of the 2015 U.S. Open championship. Wine Valley is ranked in the top 100 modern courses built since 1960, John said. Not bad for a course that's only been open for three years.

"I also agree with local player Ken Cole of Waitsburg, Wash. - the par-5s are the most memorable holes," Jay continued in his blog.

Ken told him his favorite holes are the par-5s. "Every one of them gives you a chance to go at it and get on in two, yet the bunkers are deep and penal. Those holes offer great risk-reward options; you can catch up in match-play matches. Plus, the greens are fantastic."

Jay also chatted with another regular, Walla Wallan Mike White, who said "At this whole course you have options around the greens. You can bump-and-run, putt or pitch. You have plenty of risk-reward options and you're going to have birdie chances, maybe even eagle, but you can also get nailed on any hole."

Mike also delighted that "There's no freakin' trees! Old guys like me? We hate slogging around and punching out of the trees all day."

Jay concluded that Wine Valley "may be the second-best course in the state of Washington, and being spoken of in the same breath as Chambers Bay is rarified air indeed. There's something for everyone at Wine Valley: great views of the Blue Mountains, a rugged golf course, brilliantly conceived greens, multiple options on recovery shots, the ground game, minimalism, ‘no freakin' trees' - it's the total package."

For more about Wine Valley, 176 Wine Valley Road, call 525-4653, or see www.winevalleygolfclub.com/.

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For four years, Walla Wallan Diane Miller has volunteered in the Christian- and family-oriented Hearts-4-Seniors, through Yahoogroups.

Its members send cards and letters to seniors throughout the United States and beyond. "Our purpose is to uplift and encourage them with happy mail, Diane said.

They include a prayer request list where members and seniors are posted who are going through an illness or a difficult time.

Recently, "God has been inspiring me to begin using prayers for local residents within this county and apply card sending, notes, calligraphy, poetry, inspirational writing and my heart to convey God's love to them," Diane said. To that end, she formed a Heart-4-Prayers. She keeps a scanner turned up throughout the day and when she hears medical incidents, she prays for the people.

"Because of my prayers, someone's body or spirit is being restored or healed; someone's spirit is being lifted; someone's condition is improving; someone's addiction is being defeated; someone is touching the grace and passion of God. Because of my card/note/poem/writing to them, they know that someone care and carries it through with Heart-4-Prayers," she said.

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New officers for the 2012 calendar year were elected at a Fort Walla Walla Museum Board of Directors meeting, according to a release from Nancy Parry, executive assistant.

Robert Stevenson, the board's new president, is an active volunteer and recipient of the Morris Ganguet Outstanding Volunteer and Gerwyn A. Jones Service awards. He previously served as president in 2006.

Other officers include Roger Cockerline, vice president; Donald Meiners, treasurer; Ernie Campbell, secretary; and Pam Ray, past president.

Roger holds a master's in history and is active in the Museum's archaeology work. Donald, a third-generation Walla Walla County farmer, has served on other boards such as Columbia Rural Electric Association and Walla Walla Wheat Growers. Ernie is an active community volunteer who has led children through school tours at the Museum for several years. A former Walla Walla County commissioner, Pam led the Museum through an economically challenging year.

Jim Barrow, city of Walla Walla mayor, will be the new City Council representative.

James Payne, museum executive director, said "We are very excited about our new leadership and the skills they bring to the table. These officers will continue the great work of their predecessors who did a wonderful job strengthening our operations."

Board goals for staff for the year are to increase operating revenues, expand fundraising efforts, strengthen staff, to process backlog of recently acquired artifacts and continue to develop the new Heritage Research Services program.

Fort Walla Walla Museum, 755 Myra Road, is open weekdays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through March. For more details, contact 525-7703, email info@fortwallawallamuseum.org or online see fortwallawallamuseum.org .

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Walla Walla Valley Academy's AcroKnights will take the court for a pre-game performance

April 1 when the Portland Trail Blazers face the Minnesota Timberwolves at 5:30 p.m. in the Portland's Rose Garden.

Members, who execute acrobatics moves, learn teamwork, trust, respect, courage and self confidence while exhibiting control of their bodies to show strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and agility, according to their Facebook page.

For more details about attending the game, call the WWVA office at 525-1050. Seats are available in the $54 yellow, $28 red and $22 purple sections. Order deadline is March 9. A portion of each ticket purchased will support the AcroKnights.

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Wine Guys Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr, who write for the Gaston Gazette, www.gastongazette.com, in Gastonia, N.C., gave the nod on Valentine's Day to a variety of wines, including three from Walla Walla's Buty Winery, founded in 2000.

Buty founders Caleb Foster, owner/winemaker, and Nina Buty Foster, owner/general manager, were cited for a 2009 Buty semillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle ($25).

"This one offered intriguing and unique flavors. This dry white blend - 65 percent is semillon - has a silky texture and rich peach, tropical fruit flavors. It matched nicely to turkey," the Wine Guys said.

They also cited the Buty Walla Walla Valley Rediviva of the Stones 2008 ($55). They described the blend of 79 percent syrah and cabernet sauvignon as "a richly textured wine made from grapes grown in a cobble-filled riverbed. It has an earthy profile with wild berry fruit and firm tannins. We also liked the 2009 Buty Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend ($40) from the Columbia Valley."

Buty is at 535 E. Cessna Ave. Call 527-0901.

While I'm at it, two other vintners garnered mention in a Feb. 16 item by Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman, editors of Wine Press Northwest, in Whatcom Magazine through the Bellingham Herald.

A 2008 cabernet franc, Walla Walla Valley, $25, from Grande Ronde Cellars "will appeal to ‘Francophile' fans, those who appreciate the tones of red currant, van cherry, oregano and green bell pepper. The subdued barrel notes and sandy tannins give this lots of food applications."

Commenting on a Walla Walla Vintners 2009 cabernet franc, Columbia Valley, $28, Eric and Andy said "this winery deserves much of the credit for making Washington-grown cabernet franc so popular in the Northwest.

The nose is rich with blueberry, marionberry, cherry, cracked black pepper, black olive and porcini mushroom earthiness. There's even more richness found in the flavors of dark cherry, vanilla bean, more pepper and chocolate lavender bar."

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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The Waitsburg Relay for Life Team is hosting its second annual Shamrock Bingo on March 10 to raise funds for American Cancer Society research.

Held in the Waitsburg Elementary multi-purpose room, doors will open at 4:30 p.m. and bingo starts at 5 p.m. There will be 20 bingo games with 20 prizes at $1 per game.

Wheat berry chili or stew, a roll and a beverage will be available for $3.

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Originally opened in 1925 as an educational site for girls in the Valley, Camp Kiwanis at Kooskooskie, up Mill Creek east of Walla Walla, sustained noticeable damage during a recent ice storm, according to members of the founding Kiwanis Club.

Since it opened, thousands have enjoyed the grounds.

Of the seven resident cabins on site, four were damaged, two significantly and two more minorly, said member Don Gibbard. Trees toppled on the property leaving a considerable trail of debris.

The showerhouse, which the club repaired two years ago after pipes broke, suffered major damage to the men's side from a large tree limb that crashed through the roof and damaged a rafter, Don said. On a positive note, however, the lodge and pool escaped unscathed.

The camp remained solely for girls into the early 1940s when Kiwanis added more permanent buildings and expanded its uses.

The camp's mission has always been to serve children in the Walla Walla Valley. To that end, it has hosted Camp Fire Girls, now Camp Fire USA, as the primary group for the first few years. Others who have accessed the site include Boy Scouts of America, 4-H, Whitman College, Walla Walla Public Schools and a variety of church and civic groups.

The concrete swimming pool added in the 1950s continues to attract groups to the camp, Don said.

"At its highest we have records of as many as 8,000 persons using the camp in a year. Most years are lower and in the early days the camping days were limited to good weather months," he said.

Kiwanis officials are working with an insurance agent to assess damage and cost of repairs. Those who wish may donate for this purpose or any Kiwanis project. The camp is a not-for-profit 501c3 foundation, which makes donations tax deductible.

Contributions may be made to Camp Kiwanis Foundation, P.O. Box 416, Walla Walla, WA 99362. Volunteer time is also welcome as a donation. For additional details, contact Don at gibbdo@pocketinet.com or 509-525-9497.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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