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Lesson learned about Desert Peaks

If I have learned anything in all my years in the sports journalism profession, it has been to think before you speak.

That applies to simple questions about how I think a football team will fare in any given year, what chance does a certain athlete have when it comes to moving on to the college level or if a coach should keep his or her job. I get asked about stuff like that often and have learned to Tiger Woods’ it – give a non-answer.

So in the wake of the Melissa Bowerman situation, I choose not to speak, at least for now.

That unfortunate occurrence made me think about a time that I did not take my own advice and spoke without thinking. And I am regretting it.

It happened back in April when I played my first round of golf at Desert Peaks Golf Club.

Golf is my favorite sport to play, hands down. I love football and baseball, but I don’t have the personal connection with those anymore.

At just about every stop on my journalism tour, which has taken me from Texas to New Mexico, Washington, Colorado, Wyoming and now Oregon, most places were chosen bt the quality of the golf.

So when I saw the sports job in Madras come open, I was drawn to it primarily because of the reputation that Central Oregon has for golf. My old golf buddies were, in a word, jealous when I told them where I was moving to.

Here I am in a golfing Mecca, more than 30 courses within an hour’s drive. It’s what I have always wanted.

So I was deeply disappointed in everything I encountered the first time I went out to Desert Peaks. So much so, I texted a couple friends back in Texas and told them that I had possibly played the worst golf course, well, ever.

That has been an ongoing debate with my friends – we don’t purposely seek out bad courses, but if we find one we think might be worthy of inclusion, we have to share the info.

I, unfortunately, was forced to put Desert Peaks into that conversation.

I have never been one to rip a course just because of its layout. I find many courses to have boring or uninspired designs, but as long as there is grass to hit off of and green to putt on, I’m OK with it. When I played Desert Peaks, it had neither.

I was sort of shocked that a golf course in Central Oregon would be in such bad shape. And as it turns out, I wasn’t alone.

But things have changed out at Desert Peaks.

There has been an effort to green it up. With the city’s support, Jonathan Burchell, the course superintendent, has things heading in the right direction.

There are new tee boxes on three holes, weed control has taken effect and grass in now abundant all over the course.

And I, for one, am happy about that. When I played the course again last week, it was in much better shape and much more enjoyable to play.

Sure, Desert Peaks will never be considered a gem in these parts, there is way too much competition. But it doesn’t have to be.

As long as it is green and in good shape, the locals can enjoy it for what it is – a nice track that doesn’t cost a fortune to play. And with the existing land to the northwest available for development, maybe, someday, it can turn into an 18-hole course that ranks up there with some of the other courses in the region.

Then again, it might just remain the track it was designed to be – a place for friends to get together to play a little golf and suck down a few suds. Desert Peaks is the perfect place to do just that.

And it has reminded me of the lesson I need to stick too, think a little more and talk a little less.

Jeff Wilson is the Sports Editor of the Madras Pioneer. Now that the smoke has cleared, he can see where is golf ball is going.



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