Host Site For Men’s State Team Blends Love Of Golf With Wine Conoisseurs
Santa Rosa, Calif. – You won’t find Snoopy or Charley Brown hitting balls on the practice tee nor will Lucy and Linus be seen perusing the club’s delectable wine list.
None of the fictional “Peanuts” characters can be located anywhere among the 675 picturesque acres that make up Mayacama Golf Club. But they did play an indirect role in the club’s founding.
The land that features the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, clubhouse and home sites once was the property of the late Charles M. Schulz who is best known as the “Peanuts” comic strip creator. Schulz, an avid golfer who lived in nearby Sebastopol and is now immortalized at a museum in Santa Rosa, preserved the serene and rustic property, hoping that someday a golf course might emerge from the natural surroundings.
That moment came in 1999 when David Wilhelm purchased the land and got the approval for his master plan. Half of the 1,350-acre parcel went to create the 69-home Shiloh Estates, while the lower portion was zoned for the golf course, 31 home sites and casitas that would make up Mayacama Golf Club, site of the 2010 USGA Men’s State Team Championship won this week by the team from Kansas.
Wilhelm’s vision was to combine the region’s world-renown wineries with a high-end private golf experience. He had achieved a similar success with Roaring Fork Club in Aspen, Colo., which combined a Jack Nicklaus layout with fly fishing.
With some of Sonoma County’s finest wineries sitting just minutes from the property, the location could not have been more ideal. David, along with his son, managing partner Jonathan Wilhelm, even created the Vintner Member program, allowing area winery owners to join at a reduced initiation fee.
But the discount came with a disclaimer: Vintners needed to produce wines north of 92 points from Robert Parker or Wine Spectator, along with hosting annual winemaker dinners and/or tastings either at their wineries, a local eatery or the club. Regular Mayacama members also can purchase some of the hardest-to-get wines from these wineries at special pricing.
To honor this unique partnership, the club conducts the annual Vintner Cup, where each of the 31 Vintner Members is drawn blindly to play with three regular members in a four-ball competition. Each player receives a magnum of wine from the vintner and the tournament concludes with an all-vintner pour, where the latest libations are available for tasting.
“It’s an event that is unique to this club,” said Mayacama head professional Ted Antonopoulos, an Augusta, Ga., native who has been at the club since its opening on Aug. 11, 2001. “We hold it in early May. It’s a good time for [the vintners] because as you get later in the year, all of a sudden it’s harvest. That’s a very busy time for them.”
Another unique aspect of the club is what Antonopoulus calls the “wine cave.” Each member gets his/her own wine locker in the 3,000 square-foot wine cellar.
While members share lockers for golf, they get their own locker in the “wine cave.” And many of the wines on Mayacama’s list can’t be purchased by the public. It’s not uncommon to hear members providing tips on the latest Pinot Noir or Cabernet over how to play a flop shot or execute a bump and run.
“Wine was a big part of it from day one,” said Antonopoulos, whose older brother, Buddy, is the head pro at The Medalist in Hobe Sound, Fla. “Wine country is such a destination for many people. That’s why it is attractive as a national membership, although the majority of the members are from San Francisco (68 miles to the south).
“They have special member pricing, which is better than they can find anywhere else. [In many cases], they would have to go on a waiting list in order to get the wine from some of these vintners.”
Of course, the main reason for Mayacama’s existence is golf. Through David Wilhelm’s connections with Nicklaus – the Golden Bear designed Roaring Fork Club – he was able to get the six-time USGA champion to naturally rout the course without moving much dirt. In the end, Mayacama’s unveiling was so heralded by members and media, it debuted in Golfweek’s Top 100 just eight months after opening.
“First of all, you start with a great piece of property, one that allowed us the opportunity to set a golf course in there, naturally, to create a wonderful golf experience,” says Nicklaus on his Web site. “The whole experience is secluded and private. The club’s location and its surrounds combine to make it very private and unique. If you weren’t from there, you’d never know there was a golf course there.”
Everything at Mayacama was done to honor traditions. Members don’t have to make a starting time and must employ one of the 50 to 60 available caddies, outside of a few designated times. Many of those caddies were utilized for the Men’s State Team Championship.
Carts can be taken by members 65 and over or anyone with a medical condition. During the summer months, carts are also available after 3 p.m.
But ever since Antonopoulos arrived at Mayacama, he thought the place was deserving of a USGA championship.
A few years back, he contacted Ron Read, the USGA’s director of regional affairs for the West Region, about the possibility of getting Mayacama on the USGA’s radar.
“He was impressed with the place,” said Antonopoulos, who has known the Monterey-based Read since 1983 when he worked at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley. “The ball got rolling. Mark Passey (Director of Regional Affairs, Central Region and past director of the Men’s State Team Championship) came out and played. We started talking about it and the Men’s State Team Championship came up.
“I presented it to ownership and they were absolutely all for it. Our members have absolutely embraced this concept.”
While Mayacama has twice been a U.S. Open local qualifying site (2008 and 2009), this is the first time the club is host on a national stage. During the Ninth USGA Men’s State Team Championship on Thursday, Bryan Norton, twice a USGA runner-up, helped his Kansas team take home a national title. Carding a 3-under-par 68 in Thursday’s final round, Norton guided Kansas to a four-stroke victory over Rhode Island, Florida and North Carolina.
From an environmental aspect, the course has been certified as an Audubon Sanctuary Program, and plenty of wildlife can be found on the property, including mountain lions, wild turkeys and deer.
“There’s a lot of emphasis on second shots,” said Antonopoulos of the course. “Misses can make getting it up and down [for par] a challenge.
“We like to have our course playing firm and fast. We really don’t do very much [to prepare the course] between day-to-day play and our own championships. Green speeds and firmness are pretty constant. What’s neat is virtually every hole is by itself. There are not a lot of parallel fairways. You look at what you have ahead of you. All the challenges are out there in front of you. It’s certainly scenic as well as being a great test It’s a good walk.”
Unfortunately, Schulz never got to see the final product. He died in February of 2000, some 18 months before the grand opening. Yet the club continues to honor him by hosting the annual Charles Schulz Celebrity Golf Classic, which has raised more than $1.6 million for Children’s Charities of Sonoma County. Recent participants have included Kurt Russell, Mayacama member John O’Hurley, Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark and Branford Marsalis.
“Wine country is a destination for them, too,” said Antonopoulos. “They also love the golf course.”
Results from the final round of the Ninth USGA Men’s State Team Championship conducted at the 6,726-yard, par-71 Mayacama Golf Club:
1-Kansas (423): Bryan Norton, Mission Hills 69-71-68–208; Charlie Stevens, Wichita 71-70-74–215; Tyler Shelton, Fairway 80-76-74–230
T2-Rhode Island (427): Bobby Leopold, Cranston 72-71-70–213; Garrett Medeiros, Rumford 72-71-74–217; Charlie Blanchard, North Providence 76-76-71–223
T2-North Carolina (427): Uly Grisette, Clemmons 74-70-71–215; Scott Harvey, Greensboro 72-76-70–218; Paul Simson, Raleigh 71-73-76–220
T2-Florida (427): Jon Veneziano, Eustis 67-75-74–216; Doug Snoap, Apopka 74-70-75–219; Don Bell, Port Orange 74-80-67–221
T5-Illinois (428): Todd Mitchell, Bloomington 71-70-70–211; John Ehrgott, Peoria 79-74-70–223; Brad Benjamin, Rockford 73-76-75–224
T5-Alabama (428): Glenn Northcutt, Dothan 73-72-73–218; Robert Nelson, Mobile 68-83-69–220; Steve Hudson, Birmingham 74-74-72–220
7-Virginia (429): Scott Shingler, Haymarket 71-71-67–209; Keith Decker, Martinsville 75-71-77–223; Roger Newsom, Virginia Beach 76-76-74–226
8-California (432): Harry Rudolph III, La Jolla 75-70-71–216; Jeff Wilson, Fairfield 73-75-72–220; Randy Haag, Burlingame 71-76-76–223
T9-Georgia (433): David Noll Jr, Dalton 74-65-77–216; Doug Hanzel, Savannah 68-77-79–224; Adam Cooper, Columbus 75-74-75–224
T9-Washington (433): Erik Hanson, Kirkland 69-76-73–218; Derek Berg, Kenmore 71-77-70–218; Mike Haack, Bellevue 73-74-74–221
T9-Pennsylvania (433): Nathan Smith, Pittsburgh 71-72-72–215; Sean Knapp, Oakmont 73-71-74–218; Artie Fink Jr., Altoona 79-84-75–238
T9-South Carolina (433): Todd White, Moore 70-72-71–213; Steve Liebler, Irmo 74-74-74–222; Brent Roof, Columbia 79-77-72–228
13-West Virginia (435): Jonathan Bartlett, Lewisburg 72-72-72–216; Pat Carter, Huntington 72-73-75–220; Steve Fox, Huntington 85-74-74–233
T14-Ohio (436): Bill Williamson, Cincinnati 72-72-74–218; Robert Gerwin II, Cincinnati 79-74-69–222; Jeff Scohy, Bellbrook 76-73-74–223
T14-Tennessee (436): Todd Burgan, Knoxville 72-73-68–213; Jeff Golliher, Knoxville 72-76-75–223; Tim Jackson, Germantown 73-76-75–224
T14-Kentucky (436): Andy Roberts, Owensboro 73-71-75–219; Robert Crockett, Louisville 77-73-72–222; Mark Knecht, Paducah 77-76-70–223
T17-Texas (437): Aaron Hickman, Dallas 71-75-72–218; Rob Couture, Dallas 76-70-73–219; John Bearrie, Arlington 78-76-77–231
T17-Mississippi (437): Fletcher Johnson, Belden 73-71-69–213; Lane Pippin, Ocean Springs 75-76-74–225; Scott Rhodes, Ridgeland 74-83-77–234
T17-Massachusetts (437): John Hadges, North Easton 75-73-71–219; Brian Higgins, Bellingham 71-78-75–224; Frank Vana, North Andover 73-74-78–225
T17-Michigan (437): Joseph Juszczyk, Dearborn Heights 80-69-66–215; Eric Lilleboe, Okemos 77-80-73–230; Jeff Champine, Rochester Hills 78-74-79–231
21-Utah (438): Kirk Siddens, Salt Lake City 72-78-70–220; Dan Horner, Sandy 75-79-69–223; Darrin Overson, Provo 70-80-77–227
22-Lousiana (439): Grady Brame, Hammond 72-80-71–223; Patrick Christovich, New Orleans 80-72-71–223; Daniel Berger, New Orleans 81-73-73–227
23-New Jersey (440): Thomas Gramigna, Haddonfield 74-72-73–219; Brian Komline, Bridgewater 72-75-74–221; David Pierce, Branchburg 79-80-74–233
24-Nebraska (441): Travis Minzel, Lincoln 75-73-75–223; Ryan Nietfeldt, Omaha 75-71-77–223; John Sajevic, Fremont 77-80-72–229
T25-Oregon (443): Paul Peterson, Corvallis 79-70-69–218; Chad Sawyer, West Linn 73-82-76–231; Jim Dunlap, Beaverton 75-82-74–231
T25-Missouri (443): Scott Hovis, Jefferson City 71-72-77–220; Brad Nurski, St Joseph 75-74-75–224; Tyler Stalker, Springfield 82-85-76–243
27-New York (447): Tim Spitz, Pittsford 72-71-74–217; Ken Riter, Buffalo 81-76-79–236; Hans Albertsson, Sleepy Hollow 75-81-80–236
28-Vermont (448): Brian Albertazzi, Killington 71-74-78–223; Garren Poirier, Killington 77-74-74–225; Eric Lajeunesse, Barre 85-78-78–241
T29-Connecticut (449): Mike Ballo, Stamford 67-74-71–212; Ryan Leahey, Orange 79-80-81–240; Bill Hermanson, East Lyme 83-83-78–244
T29-New Mexico (449): Matthew Williams, Albuquerque 73-77-70–220; Patrick Hanlon, Las Cruces 75-75-81–231; Antone Salome, Socorro 80-76-80–236
T29-Oklahoma (449): Heath Myers, Kingfisher 71-77-77–225; Brad Kropp, Edmond 80-76-74–230; Jay Smith, Edmond 74-78-79–231
T29-Maine (449): Ricky Jones, Thomaston 77-75-72–224; Seth Sweet, Madison 79-75-75–229; Matt Greenleaf, Portland 75-83-76–234
33-Maryland (450): Brent Martin, La Plata 75-69-78–222; Jeff Lim-Sharpe, Silver Spring 78-78-74–230; Michael Meyer, Rockville 84-77-77–238
34-Iowa (451): Jon Brown, Urbandale 78-74-72–224; J. D. Anderson, West Des Moines 77-79-77–233; Michael McCoy, West Des Moines 72-79-WD–NS
35-Arizona (452): Kyle Kallan, Peoria 71-77-72–220; Kenneth Kellaney, Phoenix 81-76-77–234; Patrick Geare, Tucson 81-75-80–236
36-Colorado (453): Jon Lindstrom, Broomfield 75-77-71–223; Michael Harrington, Colorado Springs 77-78-75–230; James Kurtenbach, Highlands Ranch 77-79-76–232
37-Minnesota (455): Erik Christopherson, Stillwater 71-78-74–223; Greg Melhus, Rogers 77-77-79–233; Johnny Larson, New Ulm 76-78-84–238
T38-Montana (457): Mark Mance, Whitefish 75-72-79–226; Bill Dunn, Missoula 78-88-73–239; Brandon Davison, Billings 80-80-81–241
T38-Indiana (457): Randy Nichols, Brookville 75-77-74–226; Skip Runnels, Richmond 80-78-73–231; Sam Till, Fort Wayne 80-78-84–242
40-North Dakota (462): Rick Kuhn, Bismarck 82-76-73–231; Tim Skarperud, Grand Forks 84-75-76–235; Todd Baumgartner, Bismarck 80-84-86–250
41-Wisconsin (463): Todd Schaap, Kenosha 80-72-73–225; Pat Boyle, South Milwaukee 81-75-84–240; Kevin Cahill, Waukesha 81-79-82–242
T42-Nevada (465): Joe Sanders, Incline Village 81-80-76–237; Brady Exber, Las Vegas 81-76-81–238; Steve Fink, Las Vegas 88-74-77–239
T42-Arkansas (465): Wes McNulty, Pine Bluff 77-78-79–234; Neal Westbrook, Russellville 79-76-81–236; Chris Jenkins, Little Rock 85-76-78–239
T44-Alaska (466): Adam Baxter, Fairbanks 76-89-75–240; Greg Sanders, Anchorage 79-82-81–242; Casey Cusack, Anchorage NC-81-73–NS
T44-South Dakota (466): Ryan Jansa, Sioux Falls 76-74-76–226; Tim Kalil, Brookings 80-79-81–240; Paul Schock, Sioux Falls 89-90-87–266
46-New Hampshire (469): Nicholas Macdonald, Lebanon 74-75-79–228; Jim Cilley, Penacook 75-83-83–241; Ken Nilson, Center Harbor 82-88-93–263
T47-Wyoming (471): Todd Griffin, Casper 79-77-77–233; John Hornbeck, Saratoga 80-79-79–238; Morgan Splichal, Gillette 81-87-83–251
T47-Delaware (471): Greg Wolfe, Newark 78-73-78–229; Chase Brockstedt, Rehoboth Beach 82-77-90–249; Darrell Clayton, Wilmington 81-89-84–254
49-Puerto Rico (478): Erick J Morales, San Juan 79-73-80–232; Roberto Fabelo, San Juan 84-74-88–246; Elvin Gonzalez, San Juan 90-85-96–271
50-Hawaii (484): Hunter Larson, Naalehu 77-76-80–233; Reo Saito, Honolulu 85-84-82–251; Jared Kato, Pearl City 90-98-87–275
51-Idaho (486): Matt McPhie, Star 77-88-78–243; Everett Grimes, Nampa 79-84-80–243; Matt Meador, Hailey 85-90-91–266
52-District of Columbia (502): Mychael Cohn, Washington 81-85-79–245; Kevin McDonnell, Washington 91-95-79–265; Richard Ledwidge, Washington 98-87-82–267